State gave massage-therapy license to man with history of sex crimes

By: - June 9, 2023 5:02 pm

The state of Iowa says it unwittingly awarded a man with a history of sex crimes a license to practice massage therapy. (Photo illustration via Canva)

The state of Iowa says it unwittingly awarded a man with a history of sex crimes a license to practice massage therapy.

The Iowa Board of Massage Therapy issued an emergency order this week suspending the license of Abelardo “AJ” Rodriguez of Iowa City, citing a recent complaint from a female patient who alleges Rodriguez touched her inappropriately during an appointment nine weeks ago.

The board alleges that when Rodriguez applied for a massage-therapy license in 2018, he failed to voluntarily disclose his 2012 and 2016 criminal convictions for harassment.

According to the board, those convictions involve incidents in which Rodriguez sent “sexually offensive messages, unsolicited and unwanted photographs of his erect penis, unsolicited and unwanted videos of (him) masturbating, and exposing his erect penis in a public place.”

Court records indicate that in September 2015, a woman complained to Iowa City police that Rodriguez had been sending her unwanted messages on Facebook, as well as “multiple lewd photos of himself.” On Nov. 30, 2015, he allegedly came into the victim’s place of employment and exposed himself to her on two different occasions. Court records indicate that the case resulted in Rodriguez pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of harassment.

According to the board, Rodriguez later obtained a massage therapy license and began working at Rodriguez Bodywork in Iowa City. During a massage appointment in late March, he allegedly massaged the breasts of a female client for 15 minutes without the woman’s consent. The board alleges that Rodriguez had previously told the woman he was certified in full chest and breast massage, and presented her with a consent form to sign if she was interested in the service. The woman declined.

According to the board, Rodriguez later admitted to a board investigator that he massaged the woman’s breasts but said he did so with the woman’s oral consent. He allegedly stated that he had intended to get the woman’s written consent but neglected to do so.

It was when the woman’s subsequent complaint to the board was being investigated that the board concluded he had intentionally withheld or misrepresented information about his past criminal convictions. The board said information about those crimes, if disclosed, “may have impacted his ability to become licensed” as a massage therapist in 2018.

“When speaking with the board’s investigator, (Rodriguez) denied that he had ever been charged with or convicted of a crime relating to inappropriate sexual conduct or contact despite having a criminal history for the same,” the board alleges.

It’s not clear why the board didn’t learn of the criminal convictions in 2018 when Rodriguez applied for a license. The arrests are a matter of public record and details of at least one of the cases are readily available through Iowa Courts Online.

Rodriguez is charged by the board with improper sexual contact with a client, engaging in unethical conduct, fraud in procuring a license and engaging in conduct that subverts or attempts to subvert a board investigation.

Earlier this week, the board concluded Rodriguez’s conduct posed “an immediate danger to the public health, safety, and welfare” and voted to impose an immediate, indefinite suspension of his license.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.