Ryan McAlister, 34, allegedly ran an unlicensed tattoo parlor in his Coon Rapids house for at least two years. Thes photos allegedly shows his tattoo of “love” on the forearm of a 16-year-old girl.
Ryan McAlister, 34, allegedly ran an unlicensed tattoo parlor in his Coon Rapids house for at least two years. Thes photos allegedly shows his tattoo of “love” on the forearm of a 16-year-old girl.
February 27, 2014

A 34-year-old Coon Rapids man allegedly inked the word "love" on the wrist of a 16-year-old girl at the kitchen table of his house in recent weeks in violation of three state laws, according to court documents.

The tattoo artist, Ryan Patrick McAlister, denied the allegation in a telephone interview with the Daily Times Herald on Wednesday and said he has not tattooed anyone since his license lapsed in 2007.

"I haven't given any tattoos," McAlister said. "I've been too busy."

Coon Rapids Police Chief Joel Roetman said charges against McAlister are pending, and he could not say how many would be filed in court or when. His department's investigation is ongoing, he said Monday.

The investigation was revealed in search-warrant documents that recently became publicly available.

At least two teen girls sought tattoos from McAlister, and one of them was younger than 16, Roetman alleged.

A 16-year-old Jefferson girl alleged in a written statement this month to police that her grandmother gave permission for the tattoo, her mother drove her to McAlister's house and that she paid $35 for the work.

McAlister said he does not know the girl, who is identified by name in the court documents. The Times Herald is withholding her identity because she is a minor and the alleged victim of a crime.

It's illegal in Iowa to tattoo without a license, and, as of 2010, the work cannot be done on residential property, with the exception of tattoo parlors that had operated in homes before the law changed.

It's also illegal to tattoo a minor, even if the child has permission from a parent or guardian.

All three of the crimes are serious misdemeanors, punishable by fines and up to one year in jail.

"We found (McAlister) when a grandparent came forward with pictures on Facebook," Roetman said, referring to a social-media website on which people often post photos of themselves and others. "It was just inappropriate. ... There is risk getting tattoos in a normal situation, let alone a kitchen."

The photos - which are part of the public court record because they were used as evidence for a search warrant to confiscate McAlister's tattoo equipment - purportedly depict McAlister in white, synthetic gloves writing the four curvy letters on the girl's left wrist as it lay on a table. A kitchen sink is visible in the background.

A police officer alleged that McAlister "was performing illegal tattooing" up to two years ago, according to the officer's request to search the man's house.

A judge approved the search on Feb. 11, and officers went that night to McAlister's house in the 100 block of Park Street.

"I was tucking my children into bed, and three officers came into my house," McAlister recalled. "I've had the (tattoo) equipment for a long time, since I was licensed. They're my most valuable material possessions - more valuable than my vehicle."

He estimated that the needles, ink and other equipment - which officers confiscated during the search - are worth about $5,000.

"But I haven't been running a tattoo shop out of my house," McAlister said. "It's too easy to get a permit."

The Iowa Department of Public Health issues the permits for $75. Eligible adults must have a high school diploma or general educational development certificate and complete two courses on blood-borne pathogens and standard first aid from the American Red Cross or other nationally recognized organization.

"It's for the health and safety of those doing the tattoo and those getting the tattoo," said Debbi Cooper, an environmental specialist for the state health department's Tattoo Bureau.

Iowa law contains a long list of requirements for tattoo sterilization to avoid possible infection. Roetman said the girls who alleged got tattoos at McAlister's house did not suffer any infections from the work.

Cooper confirmed that McAlister was licensed with her department in 2006 and 2007.

McAlister claimed that the search and potential criminal charges are the result of a "personal vendetta" of one of Coon Rapids' police officers and that the photos used to obtain the warrant might be "from some of my early work" when he lived in Pella.

However, the tattoo in the Facebook photos is similar to one in a police photo dated Feb. 5 of the girl's wrist.