COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Two people at the top of a massage therapy licensing scheme will serve federal prison time and house arrest.
The scheme was previously exposed by 13 Investigates in an ongoing investigation into illicit spas in Colorado.
Kevin Shen, 49, originally from China and currently living in Massachusetts, was sentenced to serve 15 months in prison for his role as the leader of the scheme. Marla Daniels, 51, of Oklahoma City, was sentenced to serve three years of probation, including eight months of home detention.
Federal prosecutors said between February 2015 and March 2018, Shen and Daniels fraudulently obtained the questions and answers to the exam that Colorado requires to become a massage therapist. Shen apparently had the questions and answers translated from English to Chinese and created cheat sheets for the exam. According to court documents, the pair charged massage therapy students from the Majestic Massage Therapy school in Aurora for the cheat sheets. The school shut down after federal prosecutors uncovered the scheme.
Shen would submit fraudulent applications for massage therapy licenses to the State of Colorado Department of Regulatory Affairs on behalf of applicants, according to the US Attorney's office.
“Falsifying credentials, regardless of the industry, is criminal, and those responsible will be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn. “The defendants in this case certified unqualified individuals to practice massage therapy, leaving those who use those services vulnerable.”
In 2019, Aurora officials who created a city code to shut down illicit spas found that almost all therapists from 19 of the spas offering sexual services graduated from a fake school.
Despite the federal sentencing of Shen and Daniels, the issue may not be resolved on the state level. In 2019, 13 Investigates found the licenses issued from these fake institutions remained valid in the state of Colorado.
The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) admitted last year that it did not have a review process to verify licenses from massage schools that were shut down for fraud. DORA officials said state law would need to change for them to be able to do so.
13 Investigates reached out to DORA on Monday to see if those who received these fake credentials still had active massage therapy licenses. We have not yet heard back.