Criminal probe

Two more suspected victims come forward in Coconut Grove spa groping case

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Two more women have come forward to tell authorities that a massage therapist at an upscale Coconut Grove salon sexually assaulted them.

The development comes days after the Tiano Salon & Spa went to court in an unsuccessful bid to hide the identity of one of the women — who last year complained, in an e-mail to the business, about the masseur’s lewd behavior.

Miami police in January arrested Victor Antonio Sanchez, 53, after a woman immediately reported he had touched her inappropriately, then attempted to perform oral sex on her during a massage session.

When that woman later sued the salon, an e-mail surfaced from another woman who said she had been groped and kissed during a massage session seven months earlier,in July 2013.

The shaken woman did not report the episode to police, but she demanded that Sanchez be fired because “if you keep him there, he will continue to do this.” The spa, located at 2840 Oak Ave., nevertheless kept him working there until his arrest.

The name of that first woman in the email, which was given to the plaintiff’s lawyer, Randy Weber, as part of the civil suit against the salon, was redacted.

When prosecutors subpoenaed the email and records of the client, the salon asked Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Thomas Rebull to keep the evidence secret.

“This individual elected not to publicize the alleged incident or seek criminal charges,” the spa’s attorney, Jeffrey Bell, wrote in a court filing. “To have one’s name disclosed and publicized with potentially intimate and personal information would be grossly unjust.”

Prosecutors, however, by law are not allowed to release the name of sexual assault victims.

Assistant State Attorney Christine Zahralban called the effort a “blatant attempt by Tiano to hide a potential witness and victim whom they do not even represent.”

The judge ordered the salon turn over the records to a senior female judge, who would call the woman. She quickly agreed to cooperate with prosecutors against Sanchez.

The legal dispute, first reported by The Miami Herald, got the attention of yet a third victim. This woman told investigators that in December, Sanchez touched her private areas against her wishes — and also kissed her hand, according to court document.

After she left the massage room, Sanchez “stared at the victim until she finally paid and left,” according to a court document filed late Monday.

Sanchez has not been charged with assaulting the other two women. But by law, victims in uncharged cases can testify against someone in a charged case, as long as the alleged crimes are similar.

The former massage therapist has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial Aug. 11.

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