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  Priest Loses Massage License
Board Investigates after Marijuana Conviction. Suspension May Be Temporary

By Carol Biliczky
Akron Beacon Journal [Ohio]
August 13, 2004

A Roman Catholic priest convicted of growing marijuana in his church rectory also has lost his state license to perform massage therapy.

The Ohio State Medical Board agreed on Wednesday to notify Richard Arko of Norton that his medical license had been suspended as a result of his felony conviction and that he had 30 days to request a hearing.

"This is temporary until the allegations have been considered," said spokeswoman Lauren Lubow of the state medical board.

She said the board "can do anything from reprimanding him to permanently revoking his license" at the hearing or on its own if he does not request one.

This is another in a string of setbacks for Arko, who couldn't be reached for comment.

He was arrested in January after Norton police searched the Prince of Peace Catholic Church rectory in Norton and seized 35 marijuana plants, which Arko said were for medicinal use.

He was convicted in April of illegally cultivating marijuana and possession of criminal tools he used to grow the plants, receiving two years of probation.

Since then, prosecutors and the review board for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland also have investigated allegations of sexual abuse against Arko, 40.

"The investigation is ongoing as we speak," diocese spokesman Robert Tayek said on Thursday.

In addition, Arko has resigned as pastor of the local church and is on a voluntary leave of absence from the diocese.

As for the massage therapy, Arko founded a company called Sacred Ground Yoga in Barberton.

He built the organization "from a small group of locals interested in exercise in 1994 to a thriving and expanding community," according to the Web site, where Arko is listed as one of four instructors.

He'd been licensed as a massage therapist in Ohio since January 1996, said Lubow of the state medical board. She said it was the first disciplinary action on his record.

Arko's attorney Donald Varian said Thursday he wasn't aware of the medical board action against his client but would review it to consider an appeal.

"It's not been an easy time for him, but he's doing OK," he said.

Varian declined to comment further.

 
 

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