Board rules against spa owner
Last updated 9/21/2023 at 10:39am
The Oregon Board of Massage Therapists (OBMT) has issued a final order assessing $13,000 in civil penalties against Michael Boyle, former owner of Hop in the Spa in Sisters, and an additional assessment of Department of Justice costs to a total of $50,000.
The Board had assessed a total of $14,000 in sanctions in February of 2022. Boyle appealed that regulatory action in a contested case proceeding, which took through July 2023 to resolve.
Boyle also faces criminal charges including two counts of felony sex abuse, five counts of misdemeanor sex abuse, one count of assault in the fourth degree, and 13 counts of practice of massage without a license — all in association with alleged actions committed at Hop in the Spa in Sisters. The district attorney alleges that there is a total of 11 victims, all of whom were allegedly victimized while patronizing Hop in the Spa.
A grand jury handed up an indictment on those charges in September 2021. After multiple delays, the criminal case is scheduled in Deschutes County Circuit Court for February 2024. Boyle has pleaded not guilty on all counts.
Boyle has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that his civil rights were violated in the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office investigation.
In its final order, OBMT rejected Boyle’s argument that he did not advertise or offer massage for compensation, and found that:
“Mr. Boyle’s conduct was extremely unethical and unprofessional. For example, although he told spa patrons he did not have a license to practice massage, he misled them by claiming that he did not need a license for the massage services he was offering. He falsely stated to Customer BB that he could massage body parts other than her hands and feet as long as she consented to it. He falsely stated to Customer HH and her friend that he was working towards his massage therapist license, and he would use the time spent on their massages in furtherance of that goal.”
The Board found it justified to assess the maximum allowable penalty, stating:
“Although the Board’s rules limit civil penalties to $1,000 per violation, it is worth noting that Mr. Boyle’s violations of ORS 687.021(1)(a) were willful, intentional, and apparently without remorse. In addition, Mr. Boyle demonstrated a lack of candor with the Board during its investigation and with this forum during the contested case proceeding.”
The order, signed by Robert Ruark, executive director of the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners, concludes that: “The evidence is overwhelming that Mr. Boyle used the massage sessions to prey on women. He touched several of the women in intimate parts of the body... that made the women uncomfortable. He made inappropriate inquiries into his female customers’ past, asking whether they had been subject to trauma or abuse in the past. There is no evidence that he offered massages to, or ever performed massages on, male clients of Hop in the Spa… In short, Mr. Boyle’s conduct demonstrates a gross deviation from professional ethics and standards of practice for massage therapists (or, for that matter, any ethical person).”
The building that housed Hop in the Spa was demolished and removed from the site on Cascade Avenue last spring. There are currently “For Sale” signs up on the vacant lot.