National massage spa franchise Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa is facing a new wave of sexual assault complaints and civil lawsuits. Were you or a loved one assaulted during a massage? Our experienced civil attorneys can help.
Contact our lawyers today to learn more about your rights and legal options in a free consultation. Some assault survivors may be eligible to pursue compensation and accountability by filing a lawsuit. Learn more about our sexual abuse law firm.
It started with Massage Envy, the nation's largest chain of massage spa franchises. Nearly 180 women have stepped forward to accuse massage therapists working at franchise locations of sexual assault, leading to criminal investigations, civil lawsuits, and major headlines. Unfortunately, sexual abuse can also be found in other areas, including by doctors. Learn more from our team of doctor sexual assault attorneys.
Now, a second massage franchise has become embroiled in the national scandal. In police reports and civil legal documents, dozens of women say massage therapists at Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa sexually assaulted them.
Criminal convictions have emerged in Pennsylvania, therapists have been stripped of their licenses in Florida and criminal charges have been leveled in Maryland. Across the border in Canada, at least two Hand and Stone massage therapists have been charged for non-consensual sexual touching.
While the scope of Hand and Stone's problem is still unknown, some sexual assault survivors believe that the franchise company should be held accountable.
All businesses in America (and Canada, for that matter) are bound to put adequate measures in place to protect their customers and guests from unlawful activity. But many Hand and Stone massage therapists have been accused of sexually assaulting multiple victims.
In their civil lawsuits, a number of survivors say Hand & Stone isn't doing enough to protect its customers. We've even heard stories of sexual assault survivors being ignored or dismissed by Hand and Stone employees after making a complaint.
As more and more women continue to step forward, our experienced sexual assault attorneys are opening a full investigation into Hand and Stone's sexual assault policies.
Florida is at the center of the Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa sexual assault scandal. At least four massage therapists at the chain's Florida franchise locations have been accused of sexual assault by clients, leading to civil lawsuits, criminal charges and a guilty plea.
At least one Hand and Stone spa in Florida even has a history of hiring multiple massage therapists who go on to victimize their clients.
A civil lawsuit was filed in February 2018 against the Hand and Stone franchise location in Clermont, Florida.
The case involves Cesar Guerrero, a 26-year-old, massage therapist who pleaded guilty to sexual battery in March for sexually assaulting a client when he worked at Massage Envy.
But Guerrero previously worked at Hand and Stone and, in her civil lawsuit, a woman says that, during a 2015 massage at the franchise, she was sexually assaulted by the man. She says the franchise failed to inform clients or adequately protect them, in light of Guerrero's history of sexual assault complaints.
Guerrero pleaded guilty to charges linked to his time at Massage Envy; he was sentenced to 15 years of probation and registered as a sex offender. He has not commented on the allegations about his tenure at Hand and Stone.
"It is now clear I'm not the only one," the woman, who has asked not to be identified, said in an interview with News 6. "I want to tell victims that they shouldn't be afraid and I know it's really hard to face it, but know that the people that love you and support you, they will be there for you."
In May 2017, a Naples woman stepped forward, reporting her alleged sexual assault at the hands of Carlos Amador, a 53-year-old massage therapist working at the Naples Hand and Stone, according to the Miami Herald.
In her report to police, the woman accused Amador of touching her inappropriately multiple times during a massage session. "The victim described to me that she was completely panicked and frightened," an arrest report reads, noting that Amador allegedly cupped her breasts and placed his entire hand on her vagina.
"Carlos [Amador] is a large, muscular male at 260 pounds and was very intimidating under the circumstances as the female was undressed and totally off guard in an environment where she wanted to trust the staff."
Amador was charged with one count of battery, pled guilty and received a sentence of one year's probation. He voluntarily surrendered his Florida massage license as part of the plea agreement.
The same month, Florida's Department of Health issued an urgent order (PDF) restricting the massage license of Carlos Ysrael Lamos. Like Amador, Lamos had been employed at the Hand and Stone massage location in Naples.
The State Health Department pulled Lamos' license because he had sexually assaulted two female clients, rubbing in between their buttocks, touching their vaginas and uncovering their nude bodies without consent. In February 2016, the first words out of Lamos' mouth to one client were "you have an amazing body." He proceeded to expose her nude body multiple times, spreading her buttocks and "grazing" her anus with his fingers.
In May 2018, David Nazario also had his Florida massage license revoked. The employee of a Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa in Orlando, Nazario had removed a client's sheet without consent, then proceeded to fondle her breasts and touch her vagina twice during a massage session in May 2017. In Floria, it is against the law for a massage therapist to undrape a patient's breasts, genitals or buttocks without consent.
On February 28, 2017, Larry Donnell Doye, a 33-year-old massage therapist at Hand and Stone's Severna Park location was taken into custody at the spa and charged for sexually assaulting a client while she was sleeping. The victim, whose name has not been released, says that she fell asleep during a massage with Doye, then woke up to realize that the man was assaulting her. She reported the assault to police, who subsequently charged Doye with three counts of sexual assault, including a felony charge of third-degree sexual offense. Doye was immediately fired from his position at the Hand and Stone spa.
David Elijah Ward, 37, was convicted on April 21, 2017 of sexually assaulting two women while working at a Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. During the criminal trial, jurors heard evidence that Ward had committed indecent assault, massaging the vaginal areas of two clients.
As a result of his conviction, Ward was stripped of his Pennsylvania massage license. One of the assault survivors says Ward digitally penetrated her during a massage session on July 21, 2016. "During the latter part of her massage[,] Ward slipped his hand under her underwear, massaging her vagina and penetrating her with his fingers," the Bucks County District Attorney's Office writes.
In a second incident that occurred a week later, a 52-year-old nurse made similar allegations against Ward, saying the man had rubbed her genitals during a session. Both women say they were "paralyzed" with shock after being assaulted, but chose to "stand up" for themselves by reporting the incidents to the police.
A second conviction came seven months later. On October 5, 2017, Jerome McNeill was convicted for indecent assault in the case of an Aramark employee who had visited the Loews Hotel spa where McNeill worked.
In a civil lawsuit against the hotel, which was subsequently settled for more than $1 million, the victim describes the assault in detail, telling how McNeill "intentionally sexually assaulted" her by digitally penetrating her vagina and anus multiple times.
But the Loews Hotel wasn't McNeill's first employer. Prior to his stint at Loews, McNeill worked at the Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa in Haverford, Pennsylvania, where he was accused of indecent assault in 2016. That case also went to a criminal jury, but McNeill was acquitted, Philadelphia Magazine reports.
On January 19, 2018, 56-year-old Douglas Christo Stephens was arrested and charged for sexually assaulting one of his client's at a Toronto Hand and Stone. Police reports indicate that a 41-year-old woman has accused Stephens of assaulting her on January 12.
An Ontario Hand and Stone employee was charged in 2015 for assaulting a female client during a massage session. At the time, police said 33-year-old Jasil Puniyanikodan, a resident of Toronto, sexually touched a client without her consent.
Like so many survivors, we believe the Hand and Stone franchise itself, along with individual franchise owners, could be held responsible for unwanted sexual advances, nonconsensual sexual touching and rape.
These are serious charges, which should be reported to the police immediately. Our experienced assault lawyers have already seen several Hand and Stone massage therapists come to justice, as criminal prosecutors pursue severe penalties through the criminal justice system.
However, the criminal justice system is not designed to support victims. Most victims of crime will never see any compensation in the wake of a horrific violation, despite having been traumatized under terrible circumstances.
The civil justice system fills this gap, allowing sexual assault survivors to pursue financial compensation and accountability by filing their own private lawsuits. Pursuing a civil lawsuit allows you to take charge of this horrible situation, rather than have your allegations, your experience, dismissed or ignored.
Our sexual assault attorneys led the charge against Massage Envy, filing some of the first sexual assault lawsuits to ever be leveled against the company. Now, nearly 180 lawsuits later, we're still breaking ground in the fight toward safer massage spas and victim compensation.
If you or a loved one were assaulted during a massage at one of Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa's more than 100 franchise locations, our compassionate personal injury lawyers are here to help. We want to hear from you. Help our investigation move forward by reaching out for a free consultation today.
Pursuing legal action doesn't have to be expensive. Our attorneys always offer their services on a contingency-fee basis. That means you owe us nothing unless we secure compensation in your case. It's a "no win, no fee" guarantee that we stand behind in every case. You can learn more about your rights and legal options at no charge and no obligation. Just contact our attorneys now.