SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Sarasota certified nurse’s assistant is under investigation for allegedly molesting patients at multiple assisted living facilities, according to police.
The Sarasota Police Department said Marco Tulio Avila Romero, 52, of Sarasota, was first under investigation for lewd and lascivious molestation of elderly and disabled persons on June 30.
According to a probable cause affidavit, police responded to a facility on Fruitville Road when a resident reported that Avila Romero “inappropriately touched” his genitals.
The victim’s mother told the responding officers that the victim was staying at the facility after a brain injury that left him unable to speak.
However, the resident was able to communicate thanks to an eye scanner that reads words for him, police said,
The affidavit said on June 30, the victim and his family went on a boat trip together, but when they returned to the facility, he did not want to return to his room.
The victim’s mother asked if he wanted to tell her something and he shook his head to say “yes,” officers said.
According to police, the victim was able to “word out that an employee at the facility that goes by the name Marco has been touching him” through his pants.
Officers said he repeated the statement to them, saying that the inappropriate touching had been happening for about five weeks.
Avila Romero was sent home that day, and when questioned, he said that he was only moving the patient away from his room window and did not mean to touch him inappropriately.
The suspect’s supervisor said he told her “I can’t lose my job over this; I was just moving him away from the window,” but she found it odd that he didn’t deny the accusation, according to the affidavit.
Officers said the supervisor told them the victim was fully aware of what is going on and is able to communicate what is happening.
On July 13, the director of the facility told police that Avila Romero gave conflicting stories on the matter. Police said in an email to the director, the suspect said he placed a blood pressure box on the victim’s lap, and when he picked it up the victim “did jump and got upset” because of the touching. The suspect then said he apologized and continued to the next patient.
However, further investigation found that this was not the first time Avila Romero was accused of touching patients inappropriately.
According to police, “numerous reports” were made since 2016 about the suspect molesting patients at multiple assisted living facilities.
The affidavit listed seven different incidents at Sarasota Point and Rehab, Manorcare Health Services, Magnolia Health and Rehabilitation Center, Tarpon Point Nursing Rehabilitation Center, and Amira Choice Senior Living Facility since 2016.
All of the victims in the previous incidents were said to be men in their 70s and 80s. Some of the victims were nonverbal or had dementia, which hampered the investigation.
“Romero targeted numerous victims who were unable to disclose that they were being sexually molested,” the Sarasota Police Department said.
The incidents were reported by the Venice Police Department, Sarasota Police Department, and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.
No charges were filed, and some of the victims died before Avila Romero’s arrest on July 18, 2023. One case reported at Amira Choice in May 2023 is still under investigation by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, according to the affidavit.
Sarasota County detectives said they believe Avila Romero may have had more victims and asked the public for help in finding them.
If you have information, call SPD Detective Cox at 941-263-6075 or Crime Stoppers at 941-366-TIPS. You can also send information on the Sarasota Crime Stoppers website.