Gobsmacked: adjective: shocked, astounded, astonished.

Gobsmacked is my favorite word of late, and unfortunately, myself and many other people in the massage world have been gobsmacked recently, to learn that a colleague who was admired and trusted has let us down. I am addressing this because I have had a very public relationship with this person. I have appeared on a blog she owns for several months, which incidentally she refuses to remove my picture from, as well as the pictures of the other women on the blog who would also like to be removed from it. It’s a childish and petty game designed to continue the illusion of credibility by association. She has announced many times over the past couple of years that I am her mentor. I am also addressing this now because I have just now received a thick letter from the MN Attorney General’s Office suggesting additional avenues of complaint for those who have been affected.

The first inkling I had that anything was wrong was a couple of months ago. A therapist attending a class I taught stayed after class to discuss a problem. She had ordered a book (and received it). Months later, she noticed another charge on her credit card. When she questioned it, she was told it was for shipping for a book–one that she had not ordered. It took several emails and messages to get the money refunded. Still, since that was the first report I had personally heard of any problem, I viewed it as an isolated incident.

If only that were the case. About a month ago, I started receiving emails with similar–and in some cases much worse–stories from therapists reporting incidents of unauthorized charges as high as $850 appearing on credit card statements.

There have been reports of therapists waiting as long as six months for books that have been paid for to be shipped, which they have been told were backordered. The books are actually print-on-demand from Amazon’s publishing arm, Createspace. There is no such thing as a back order. You pay, they publish and ship immediately. I have published four books there myself. I order books, they arrive within two to three days. That’s how it works.

There have also been many reports of therapists paying $350 for websites she was offering to build during a promotion, many of which are reportedly sub-par, full of grammar mistakes, have non-functional features, and to the un-web savvy out there, many have not realized that they were not the owners of their own websites, but rather that ownership was retained by the contractor. I received an email from her stating that anyone could request to have their website returned to their ownership. I have also personally seen correspondence that was extremely rude and hostile to a person who had requested that. I have received reports that websites that were ordered (and paid for) months ago have still not been put online, but when the person tried to cancel, were told that they could not because work had already started on it.

Other complaints have included the inability to access webinars that have been promised at the rate of one per day, for a total of 260 webinars…most people have said that they were only to access 8 webinars and some were not able to access any at all. She was also making the offer to do social media marketing for massage therapists, and most were disappointed to find that the posts did not cover the subject matter they had asked for, were again full of typos and/or incorrect grammar, and were not made the frequency they had been promised.

To add fuel to the fire, a newspaper story of a 2010 arrest for swindling a Mankato, MN businessman started circulating on Facebook. Several resourceful massage therapists, including myself, started doing a lot of investigating. I personally called the man who had her arrested. I have also personally spoken with or emailed with numerous massage therapists who have lost money and received no goods or services.

I have also received reports of taxes prepared that were not signed and no PTIN number provided. If that has happened to you, here is the complaint form. If you paid ANY amount of money to have your taxes filled out, the preparer is obligated to sign and provide the PTIN on the return. You may also report that to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, 600 North Robert St, Saint Paul, MN 55101.

In the event that she represented herself to you as being a CPA, as she did to many, you may also complain to the Minnesota Board of Accountancy, 85 E. 7th Place, Suite 125, Saint paul, MN, 55101.

According to the letter I received from the MN Attorney General, those who have been affected should file a complaint with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, Attn: Sheriff Matt Bostrom, 425 Grove St, Saint Paul, MN 55101, and with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, Government Ceneter West, Suite 315, 50 West Kellogg Blvd, Saint Paul, MN 55102.

The Attorney General also suggests filing a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Unlicensed and Alternative Health Care Practice, POB 64882, Saint Paul, MN, 55164.

If you have transacted business over the Internet and you have not received the goods or services that you have paid for, you may report that here.

You may also file a complaint with the NCBTMB.

When you use the complaint form, you must quote the section of the Code or the Standards that have been violated, so I am going to provide that here:

Code of Ethics:
VII. Conduct their business and professional activities with honesty and integrity, and respect the inherent worth of all persons.

Standard IV covers Business Practices. In your complaint, you should quote Standard IV and then whichever of these applies to the transactions you had.

d. accurately and truthfully inform the public of services provided

e. honestly represent all professional qualifications and affiliations

j. not exploit the trust and dependency of others, including clients and employees/co-workers

The worst of these offenses is ignoring customers…the massage therapists who believed in her and sent her their hard-earned money. The same story prevails over and over–that therapists who have contacted her to ask where their goods and services are have been ignored, blocked from her FB pages and messages, been thrown out of groups that she had organized on the Internet because they dared to question her, and have been subjected to her failure to return emails and phone calls.

I spoke to the person these accusations have been leveled at on the phone after all of this blew up on FB, and she told me that she was going to contact all the people that she owed goods and services to and make it right. A later communication from her told me that in fairness that I should mention that many people have ordered things from her and received them, so I will. A still further communication from her stated that she has hired attorneys in five states and a PR firm.

Any company can have customer service problems. My company could have a customer service problem. However, I am the owner of the company, and the burden falls on me to do anything about it.The buck stops here.

This is not the kind of post I enjoy making. There is nothing fun about seeing dozens of massage therapists out their money and disheartened over someone they believed was going to help them. There is nothing fun about seeing a colleague who is creative and smart fall from grace. The sad thing is, if all this energy had been applied to delivering what people were promised, she’d be a millionaire by now. I urge you, if you have been affected by this, to take the time to report it to the proper authorities. Your failure to do so will just make it easier for others to be victimized in the future. I cringe to think that someone right out of massage school has had, or will have, this kind of introduction to professional massage.

Cherie Sohnen-Moe and I have recently collaborated on an article that is appearing in Massage Today about how to avoid being a victim of Internet and other scams: An Ounce of Prevention Can Save You a Lot of Heartache.

41 Replies to “Gobsmacked”

  1. Pingback: Gobsmacked | WIBB
  2. I have also received “numerous” emails from MT’s with these complaints, many of them my students. I have advised them all of the information as well. NONE of them have received refunds or services rendered since they contacted this business and complained.

    I hope that there aren’t many more of our colleagues out there who have been ‘taken’. Hopefully, everyone will be more “astute’ to people who ‘claim’ things and ‘appear’ to be so well versed in ‘everything’! Great lesson for all involved to pay attention. Glad I didn’t do business with this person when approached last year.

    Thanks for the post!

  3. Thanks Laura for keeping on this issue.

    I too have spent many hours over the last month fielding emails and calls from upset therapists coming to me to try to figure the best way to deal with the aftermath from this person who holds herself out to be a therapist’s business ‘coach and mentor’.

    My concern now is that as the anger-fires go out, the new, upcoming, unaware therapists will get swindled too unless she is stopped and if that means going to jail for fraud, or what-ever fits, than maybe that is what needs to happen.

    It may not be as serious as Bernie Madoff, but in our industry the relative amount of money and the number of victims is still huge.

    Is it appropriate to post her name in your article so others can be aware of who she is?

  4. It’s not gobs of bullshit, it’s a balanced representation of what has happened. I am one of the victims – I happen to have gotten some of my $$ back through the paypal resolution process for the website.. I still feel betrayed and foolish and have paid for items not fully received (the video series) but that has been too long to try to go the same route to get the money back there. It’s a great blog post about an expensive lesson.

  5. She is doing business as ThrivingMassageBiz.com, Spatastic, MassageCoaches.com, and a number of businesses named Stonewater in MN. And in all likelihood several new ones since this all came to light. Websites and social media pages There is a FB page known as Thriving Massage Business that anyone who questioned her on why their goods and services had not been delivered got kicked off of…she stated that it was turned into a closed group for people who were paying her for one-on-one consulting. If you paid for goods or services from one of these businesses and have not received them, please file a complaint as detailed above in the blog. I did not state her name because she did not personally take money from me (or Irene or Gloria; we just received a number of complaints about her from our own followers). Anyone that she DID actually take money from and fail to deliver may feel free to state her name.

  6. It sucks. I got a few emails about her starting several months ago. Every time I share something about the situation, another handful of people pop out of the woodwork with complaints.
    You’re right, Irene. This chis is skilled in facebook advertising, that’s how she got 15k fans on her facebook page so quickly. I have no idea how we can prevent others from getting sucked into her vortex of bullsh!t.

  7. Laura, thank you for taking the time to post this. I was a massage student when I hooked with this person on Facebook. I did buy some things from her and after much “bugging” received the goods I bought but some of them were certainly not what I expected from such a well versed person. Everyone should beware of flashy I can do this and I can do that advertising/people. Thank god I did not have enough money to get involved any further than I did. Thank you again Laura.

  8. Her name is Steph Lasch, and I had dealings with her. The only money she took from me was for a webinar on Quickbooks that was horrible, and she didn’t deliver the last class, though I had given up listening at that point because the content was so bad/pointless. But I definitely experienced the behaviour described, she threw me out of her ‘group’ when I dared to question what she was delivering. I sincerely hope that people follow through with their complaints and file reports with the MINN AG, or she will just wait until the fury dies down and start all over again. She is a criminal swindler, pure and simple.
    Oh, and in case anyone doesn’t know, there are companies that you can sign up with that offer the ability to ‘buy’ likes on FB, and I am pretty sure this is how she got over 14,000 likes on her page. I suspect she may have even used these companies to get likes on the pages she was supposed to be managing.
    Massage therapists are very trusting individuals, and many don’t have a lot of business savvy, so it was a perfect population to take advantage of. Lesson learned? Look to your local community to find someone to help you with your business! There are so many legitimate companies that do this, and it is money well spent.

  9. Unfortunately there are always people like this lurking for the chance to take advantage of others. Especially when the personality type for massage therapists trends to be positive and trusting of strangers, bordering sometimes on the naive. Thanks for being a whistle blower. I think these kinds of scams go on for so long because people are embarrassed to say they got taken. So thanks for giving those people a voice! 🙂

  10. Interesting to hear of this now. I thought I was the only one to have problems with her. It took 6 months to receive her first book. I cautiously ordered her second set of books and emailed her to be sure there was no delay this time. I’m fortunate in that I can’t report that I lost anything or that I’ve been fraudulently charged for anything. However, the big red flag was raised when she started to claim she was in law school. That’s when I began to wonder how much of her story was a con. I unliked her various pages at that point. So glad I didn’t waste money on her webinars although I had considered it. I feel bad for the other therapists who didn’t catch on sooner. Had I known it wasn’t just a case of bad customer service I would have spoke out publically.

  11. well, well, well. another facebook drama story about someone who misreprented their profile. shocking, i say.

    let this horrible thing be a lesson to you all that facebook is NO DIFFERENT THAN THE INTERNET. millions and millions of people, fake and real, are on there. just like the web. buyer beware. and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!!

    do your due dilligence folks!!!!! read reviews, look up their license!!!!

    to all those who got duped, i am sorry for your losses, and she should rot in jail for a really long time.

  12. You can try filing a complaint with her internet service provider, notifying them that your image is being used without permission. That often works… and is worth a shot. Google will also sometimes quit indexing a site when enough complaints are made. Thrivingmassagebiz.com is hosted on GoDaddy. You can look up her other URLs at Who Is. http://whois.net/

  13. As a formers employee I can back up everything In This article. I was fresh out of school and was promised so many things. Bouncing paychecks and paychecks that were far from correct. Angry clients saying they had been charged for things they didn’t know about. Thankfully I left sooner than later.

  14. I am an exemployee of this person. She isn’t paying her employees either. I sent her a certified and notarized letter and I contacted the Labor Department on her. If you live in Minnesota. I would suggest contacting the News.I would like to make a suggestion… contact the local news station in MN and share this with them as well… She shouldn’t be able to get away with being so crooked.

  15. I recommend that anyone who has any connections witj local massage schools make them aware of her scams. Im on an advisory board and I plan to inform them also informing the school I graduated from

  16. As of November 27, this year she is doing the same thing to massage clients as posted on her Stonewater Facebook page:
    The client is Jennifer Thompson Funkhouser:
    “I was here for massage in March and used a gift certificate. 7 months later my card was charged for the amount of the massage. I called and very nice woman returned my phone call and assured me it was a mistake and they would refund my money. I thought nothing of it and thanked her for taking care of it. I didn’t think twice. It was a mistake, and those happen. A month, 3 voicemails ( not once has anyone picked up the phone when I call) and two emails later I still have not received a refund and I’ve received no responses to any of my voicemails. In a last-ditch effort to try and get someone to respond I posted a comment to their Facebook page; a tactic that I generally abhor! I kept it simple, straightforward and factual. It was almost immediately deleted with no response and I can no longer post comments to the page. I would have been totally okay with letting this $53 charge go, but the really bad service irks me to no end! Maybe the BBB can help.”

    Now can the NCBTMB ACT????

  17. Greetings from California! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to check out your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I love the information you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m surprised at how quick your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, good blog!

  18. I am a victim of this woman too! Her business, Stonewater Massage, charged my card $53 SEVEN MONTHS after my appointment that I paid in full with a gift certificate! And they refuse to refund it! They just simply don’t respond at all. No matter what I do! She ignored the BBB Complaint, deleted reviews off of her Facebook page and no one answers the phones! So now I am going to the Attorney General’s office. Complaint sealed and sent. I know she’s done it to at least one other person too!

  19. I am a previous employee and I am still battling with trying to get my final wages. My last paycheck bounced, only I didn’t know it till almost a month after the fact and now I am desperately trying to get my money or else I won’t be able to pay my bills. She comes up with hundreds of excuses as to why it happened and I know her track record with mail. It is a FELONY for paychecks to bounce. I’m tired of dealing with her. I thought when I quit that I wouldn’t have to anymore, but I guess not. She needs to be stopped once and for all. No more businesses, no more massage, no more anything. Lock her up!

  20. This person is with out a doubt one of the biggest crooks that i’ve ever delt with. she has taken alot of money from alot of people. I would like nothing better than to see her behind bars for a long time. It’s sad that there are people like her out there. And there will always be those people because our laws are not tough enough. I hope all you people who lost money with Stone Water get it all or some back. And all the employees get there money. With all that said God Bless

  21. She charged my credit card fraudulently right before Christmas, then refused to answer any phone calls or emails to me regarding the charges. . . Now come to find out that the business has closed it’s doors, phones are turned off and I still have $75 in PAID credits open. Once I learned Steph’s last name was Lasch, I did some research. Nothing that I have read makes me feel any better about having become a client at her company. I am out the money at this time and no where to turn. I am upset to see that she was still able to operate and no one was able to do anything to stop her despite many people’s effort.

  22. Steph Lasch can be found on many websites that specialize in reporting information on people. Simply use one of these services to get her home address and start showing up there. Get enough people to do so, after calling the news to report on it, and maybe we can ensure that she becomes too well known to swindle anyone else.

  23. That’s the thing about con artists. The more they get away with it, the greedier they get, until the lies get so big they spiral out of control. Are the cancer, pregnancy, and miscarriage lies too? An attempt to manipulate others into feeling sorry for her?

  24. Thank GOD! I just talked to the Lino Lakes Police and hopefully they will nail her to the wall this time!

  25. The Lino Lakes Police are in fact investigating. I just got off the phone with them. I hope they lock this woman up this time! I knew I wasn’t the only one. Glad I didn’t back down. The MN Attorney General’s office received complaints as well. I contacted the local news media too. Nail her ass to the wall!

  26. I am a former employee of hers who NEVER GOT PAID. I’ve spoken to the Lino Lakes police dept. too. I also filed a complaint with NCBTBM. Glad to hear someone has notified the local media. I have PROOF that she was not a trainer for Bellanina as she claimed she was. She had her MTs doing facials and they weren’t properly trained. If this goes even further, please contact me to show what I have on her.

  27. Does anyone know if she has any Etsy shops called DragonflyZenDesign or LatherLodge or baresoapbar? The last one says address is in Phoenix, but wasn’t that the same name of her latest “shop” in MN? If so, it just seems so wrong that she is allowed to continue to open shops and take people’s money!

  28. In case any of you who were cheated check this space, please contact Lino Lakes Police. They are collecting just this kind of info and have arrested Stephanie.

  29. Stephanie got a slap on the hand with 10 years probation and is now living and frauding in Arizona. She has done this to a business that I work for. I have already been in touch with the Lino Lake Police and in contact with her probation officer.

  30. She opened her business in my town. I used to be the only massage therapist here. She ran tons of massage “deals’ in the Groupon, Living Social, Crowd cut venues.. Every time I looked , i saw another Deal. My massage business fell. who can compete with that? when you run a deal, they run it for 50% of what you normally charge.. then they take half and give you half. so, for an hour massage, you get $15.. I thought, “how does she do it?” Then she opened a massage “institute”. She used her trainees to do the massages and they were probably not paid at all. I do not like this gal. i wish she ‘d never come to my small town..

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