FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A woman who was in Fort Lauderdale for spring break has accused an employee at a Massage Envy of sexually assaulting her during her session.
Thirty-two-year-old Juan Pablo Mendiz faced a judge Thursday morning, accused of penetrating the victim with his fingers.
The incident reportedly occurred on March 9 at the Massage Envy located on Cordova Road in Fort Lauderdale. According to the arrest report, the victim signed up for an hour-long massage.
It also stated that Mendiz told the customer she looked young. In the report, she claimed Mendiz began to massage close to her private area before the penetration.
The victim said she grabbed Mendiz’s forearm, ran out of the room and told the other employees.
According to the police report, other employees told her not to call police and they would handle the incident internally.
That’s when the woman left the business and called the police.
Madeline Rodriguez, who lives in the area, said she’s scared to even think this could happen in her community. “I get my nails done right next door, and I’ve actually looked in there to maybe go there,” she said. “Oh my God, that’s to terrifying. I’m just thinking about it. It’s kind of disturbing.”
“That’s terrible, I mean, with the #MeToo movement and everything going on now, I don’t know what people are thinking nowadays,” said Cornell Thomas who resides nearby.
“Sounds like they’re trying to cover it up and getting away with paying,” Thomas added. “That’s really despicable, in my opinion, and she needs to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.”
7News spoke with Mendiz’s attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, on Thursday. “He’s accused of sexual battery to which he denied all allegations to law enforcement,” he said. “We’ll be entering a not-guilty plea in court and then fighting this zealously.”
In court, Mendiz’s attorney said he is a good person and is happily married.
“His wife is fully behind him and supports him and loves him unconditionally. He has a newborn, he has an 11-year-old son and he’s never had any complaints in his many years of being a licensed massage therapist,” Eiglarsh said.
When police told Mendiz that they did a DNA swab, officials said he then changed his story. He then said he massaged above the leg near the hip flexors.
This was the second time the woman had ever had a massage, and said she was unaware of the massage protocol.
“My prayers go out to them and hopefully that can find some way to overcome it,” Rodriguez said.
Massage Envy has since released a statement that reads in part, “The reported conduct of the therapist is upsetting and unacceptable. The therapist is no longer employed … if a client wants to report an incident, the franchisee must provide the client with law enforcement’s contact information and a private room to make the call.”
What’s worse for the victim is that her family gifted her the massage and even paid the $20 tip. She did not want her family to know anything wrong happened inside the Massage Envy.
Mendiz is currently out of jail on a $12,500 bond.
This is the second time an incident like this has happened at this very location. In July 2010, another employee was accused of a similar crime.
Police believe there may be other victims. If you think you were inappropriately touched by Mendiz, call Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a $3,000 reward.
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