Winter Garden Massage Envy target of lawsuit alleging sexual assault by massage therapist

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Massage Envy is the target of yet another lawsuit involving allegations of sexual assault by a massage therapist.

This lawsuit involves a Winter Garden franchise where a previous therapist recently pleaded guilty in another assault case. That therapist, Cesar Guerrero, received 15 years of probation.

“Lightning doesn’t strike twice in one place often. What are the odds of that happening,” said Tampa attorney Joseph Alvarez, who filed the Massage Envy lawsuit in Hillsborough Circuit court on behalf of his unnamed client.

Alvarez sued Massage Envy a few year ago due to another massage therapist who was simply fired from a franchise in Clearwater when allegations arose and went on to assault other women while working for unrelated massage businesses.

“They’re synonymous with the Catholic Church,” Alvarez said.  “It’s a head in the sand approach. ‘We don’t know what’s going on, we can’t control this,’ but the reality is they control everything that happens in and around that business.”

Earlier this year, Sarasota police arrested a Massage Envy massage therapist following several allegations of sexual misconduct. 

They later charged him with assaulting a child in an incident that happened many years earlier.

Massage Envy’s corporate office sent 8 On Your Side a statement in response to questions about Alvarez’ lawsuit, saying the company has many safeguards in place. 

“Even one incident of sexual assault is too many,” the statement said. 

“The safety and well-being of members, guests and service providers has been our mission from day one. Our commitment to safety helps insure that our existing policies and protocols are best-in-class.”

Last year a Buzzfeed investigation documented 180 alleged sexual assault incidents at Massage Envy franchises in 11 states from Florida to Washington.

Massage Envy says its policies enable clients to call police when complaints arise but the company does not initiate those reports.

“It’s essentially a culture of tolerance if you will,” Alvarez said. “Legally there’s no obligation to report to police and in fact, Massage Envy tends to discourage reporting to police.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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