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A massage therapist from Central Florida has pleaded guilty to sexual battery, admitting to claims that he groped a female Massage Envy client in 2015. Cesar Guerrero was sentenced on March 6, 2018 to 15 years of probation, Click Orlando reports. He has been forced to register as a sex offender and forfeit his Florida-issued massage license.
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In entering his guilty plea, Guerrero narrowly avoided a prison sentence between 7 and 15 years for an assault that took place in December 2015. At the time, Guerrero was an employee of a Massage Envy franchise in Winter Garden, a city fifteen minutes from Orlando. Court records show that Guerrero was fired from his position at the Massage Envy days after the assault.
The assault survivor, whose name has been released to the public, confronted the former massage therapist during a sentencing hearing in the Orange County Criminal Court. “I will not stand here today to recount the pain, the suffering, the tears and the strife,” she said. “My only hope for you is that you seek the professional help that you need and understand why you did what you did and why you are the way you are.”
After being fired from Massage Envy, several other women came forward to accuse Guerrero of assault. Most recently, the man was employed at a Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa in Clermont, Florida.
At least one woman, reporters say, has filed a civil lawsuit against the Clermont Hand & Stone, a spa franchise based in Pennsylvania, for hiring Guerrero despite past allegations of sexual assault and failing to warn female customers of the danger. Hundreds of women have stepped forward in recent months to accuse Massage Envy therapists of sexual assault. Many of these complaints, often leveled in civil lawsuits, have come from Florida, where the chain has 13 franchise locations.
In 2015, the Winter Garden location where Cesar Guerrero was employed became the target of civil litigation when a woman accused the franchise of failing to call the police after she was touched inappropriately during a 90-minute massage session.
At least 16 other Massage Envy sexual assault allegations have emerged in Florida so far, but the growing Massage Envy litigation has certainly become a nationwide phenomenon. In their lawsuits, assault survivors across the country accuse Massage Envy, the nation’s largest chain of massage businesses, of implementing corporate policies that failed to protect clients from sexual misconduct.
Many claims note the company’s apparent policy that discouraged franchise employees from reporting assault complaints to the police. A number of plaintiffs have also observed that, even after being accused of sexual assault, some Massage Envy employees are allowed to keep their jobs, or even transferred to other locations.
Thankfully, public pressure has already forced Massage Envy to change. In December 2017, the company announced a six-point plan to promote greater safety inside the massage room. All massage therapists will now be subjected to annual background checks and employees have been instructed to encourage law enforcement reporting.
At the same time, women continue to come forward with their own stories of abuse at the hands of Massage Envy therapists. Just one week before Cesar Guerrero received his sentence, another Florida massage therapist was arrested on charges of sexual battery. On February 27, 2018, Ruslan Grushco, a 44-year-old former employee of a Sarasota Massage Envy franchise, was taken into custody, according to WFLA.
Three women have accused Grushco of touching them inappropriately during massage sessions, both at the Massage Envy franchise and a second spa, Inspiration Salon and Spa in Sarasota. This is Gruschco’s third arrest in the span of a single month, but the first in which charges against the man are expected to stick.
All of the women claim that Gruscho exposed their bodies inappropriately during massages, then proceeded to grope their genitals. Apparently, the man told at least one of these women that he was legally blind.