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News >  Crime/Public Safety

South Hill massage therapist’s license suspended, faces federal lawsuit over alleged inappropriate touching

UPDATED: Tue., June 1, 2021

The Thomas S. Foley United States Courthouse, seen in 2014.   (JESSE TINSLEY)
The Thomas S. Foley United States Courthouse, seen in 2014.  (JESSE TINSLEY)

A South Hill massage therapist who’s been the subject of multiple unprofessional conduct complaints had his license suspended and is facing a federal lawsuit over allegations he performed unauthorized and unwanted breast massages to students and clients.

Dylan I. Patterson, the owner and operator of Wellness Education Center and a licensed massage therapist in Washington since 1994, was suspended from practicing by the Washington Medical Commission in an order dated March 12. Wellness Education Center is listed as permanently closed online, and a phone number for the massage therapy school went unanswered Tuesday. Patterson could also not be reached Tuesday at a phone number listed on documents he provided to the Medical Commission.

Patterson has been the subject of at least three complaints to the Washington Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, a body responsible for investigating claims of unfair business practices against private vocational schools. The most recent complaint included allegations of performing breast massages on four women without proper written authorization, providing a student with hallucinogenic drugs prohibited by federal law and unwanted touching, including plucking the hair from a client’s head and putting it in his mouth to “taste (her) DNA,” according to agency records.

Patterson denied these charges in an answer to the Washington Department of Health last September. He requested a disciplinary hearing but did not appear for a scheduled conference earlier this year.

The Department of Health issued an order indefinitely suspending Patterson’s license. He may petition to reinstate it, but must pay a $3,000 fine and complete ethics training before reinstatement, according to Health Department records.

Patterson opened Wellness Education Center in 2009, according to the Washington Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board. The agency investigated unfair business practice complaints made in 2016 and 2017, which were dismissed with orders for the business to improve its attendance-recording practices and maintain professional boundaries in the classroom.

One of the students who filed a complaint with the state has sued Patterson in federal court. The woman alleges she received breast massages without proper written authorization, as is required under state law, and other clients told investigators that Patterson had pinched their nipples during massages. Any touching near that area requires an additional written authorization under state law.

The woman who filed the lawsuit alleges in June 2019 that she received a massage from Patterson during which he touched her inappropriately near the groin. When she subsequently asked for a refund of her tuition, Patterson threatened to tell authorities that she was dealing drugs. Another woman told the training and education board that Patterson had given her ayahuasca, a brew that contains a psychedelic drug illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

The woman who filed the lawsuit said she was forced to leave Spokane because of Patterson’s accusations and harassment. She is suing Patterson, alleging breach of contract, slander and assault. Patterson has not yet answered the lawsuit and does not have a listed attorney.

The Spokesman-Review is not naming the woman who sued Patterson because of the allegations’ sexual motivation, and her name is withheld from Health Department records due to whistleblower protections.

Spokane Police received a report of inappropriate touching that they investigated, said Julie Humphreys, a department spokeswoman. In consultation with the county prosecutor’s office, no charges were filed, she said.

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