Investigation: Northeast Ohio massage therapist targeted Ohio State football players in scheme for sex

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW) — A Northeast Ohio woman has surrendered her massage therapy license after she allegedly engaged in “inappropriate and exploitative behavior” that targeted members of the Ohio State University football team.

According to the investigative report, a complaint was filed with the State Medical Board of Ohio against the massage therapist on March 14, 2020.

The complaint alleged that she had offered free massages to the members of the football team, used those massages as a means to initiate sexual interactions with some of the student-athletes, and then demanded payment.

Breakdown:

  • During the investigation 117 current or former OSU football student-athletes were interviewed (of those 34 had knowledge of her)
  • Current or former 44 coaches and staff were interviewed
  • 9 football student-athletes interacted with her from social media or knew about her from other players
  • 20 football student-athletes received massages; only 5 acknowledged they engaged in sexual activity with her
  • It was all consensual

Read the entire investigative report below:

The report states the Medical Board’s investigation was delayed for about a year. On March 4, 2021 the board shared the complaint with university police, which was later directed to the Office of Legal Affairs.

On March 18, OSU engaged outside counsel, Barnes & Thornburg LLP, to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations. The investigation focused on whether any student-athlete contacted by the therapist was a victim or a crime or predatory behavior, whether NCAA rules were violated, and whether university employees were aware of the therapist’s contact with the students.

According to Barnes & Thornburg, the investigation revealed that the therapist offered massages to the football players via social media under the appearance that she operated a legitimate massage therapy business. However, officials say she had the intent of engaging in sexual activity with the students.

The therapist is accused of establishing friendships with the students before either attempting one of the following methods to engage in explicit activity:

  • Isolating the student-athletes to get them into a vulnerable state and attempting to engage in sexual activity
  • Sending overall sexual messages in an attempt to gauge their interest in having a sexual encounter

The investigative report states that the woman carried out her scheme from 2018 to 2021. She would typically meet with students in off-campus housing or at hotels. She also provided the football players with fraudulent receipts indicating they paid for their massages, even though no money was exchanged.

The report also states that the therapist’s interactions with the student-athletes were not criminal; the sexual activities that occurred were reportedly consensual. In instances were her advances were unwanted, the therapist reportedly stopped touching the students inappropriately when asked, according to the report.

Officials say the therapist has no connection to OSU or its Athletic Department. It was also revealed that no current or former OSU football team coaches or staff members were aware of the massage
therapist or of her contact with the student-athletes. In addition, no university or NCAA policies were violated.

In response, the state medical board issued an order on March 22 demanding the therapist surrender her license to practice in Ohio with consent to permanent revocation.

Additionally, although there was no determination of a criminal violation, Barnes & Thornburg stated it would be “be prudent to refer the massage therapist’s activity to a prosecutor for consideration.”

Meanwhile, OSU has released the following statement regarding the investigation and its findings:

In March 2021, the university became aware that the State Medical Board of Ohio investigated an independent massage therapist who engaged in inappropriate and exploitative behavior targeting members of the Ohio State football team. The university has confirmed that the Medical Board has taken action, and this individual has had her license permanently revoked.

Our first concern and top priority is for the safety and well-being of our student-athletes. Within days of learning of these allegations, the university quickly launched an independent investigation of the matter. An experienced legal and compliance resource, Barnes & Thornburg, led the independent investigation and has completed its work. Barnes & Thornburg found that no university or athletic department staff had knowledge of the massage therapist’s activities. Her actions were part of a scheme to exploit football student-athletes and were in violation of her state license. In addition, Ohio State does not believe the massage therapist’s actions trigger NCAA rules or form the basis for NCAA violations. While no self-reporting is required, Ohio State proactively shared the exploitative behavior with the NCAA, and a report has been made to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office.

For transparency, we are making the report and any associated public records available at this time. All student-athletes on the football team, along with coaches and staff, participated in this process. Based on the findings of the investigation, the university, through its departments of Public Safety and Athletics, has banned the massage therapist from campus and locations where students are lodging or living and has served her with a cease and desist order regarding any additional contact with students, coaches or staff.

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