A licensed massage therapist appeared in Broward County bond court Thursday accused of fondling a woman during a massage at a Fort Lauderdale Massage Envy.
And, according to the arrest report, management at that Massage Envy, 1917 Cordova Rd., asked the woman not to go to the police but to let the spa "handle it internally."
Bond was set at $12,500 for Dania Beach's Juan Pablo Mendiz, 32. According to the Florida Department of Health website, Mendiz has no previous discipline cases either as a licensed massage therapist or as a registered chiropractic assistant. He told police he'd been with Massage Envy for a year.
“My client fully cooperated with police and denied committing this abhorrent offense," said Mark Eiglarsh, Mendiz's attorney. "I have entered a not guilty plea on his behalf, demanded trial by jury, and will be zealously defending this case in court.”
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A woman who told police she was in town for Spring Break with her family went to the Massage Envy on March 9.
Her only previous professional massage hadn't been at a Massage Envy. When Mendiz's movements of her body and the coverups exposed her private parts, she felt uncomfortable, but wasn't sure that it wasn't standard procedure.
Finger penetration, however, she knew crossed any line of professional massage. She said when Mendiz had his right hand inside her, she grabbed his forearm and said, "That's not what I'm here for."
"Out of confusion and shock," the report read, she let Mendiz finish the massage. She paced outside as she thought of what had happened. When another woman emerged, she asked if what happened was normal and questioned what kind of massage place was this.
She said the older woman assured her what happened needed to be reported. They returned inside, at which time the young woman said a receptionist directed her to a private room. The receptionist gave her a blank piece of paper on which to write an account of what happened.
The young woman said the receptionist told her don't worry, something would be done, the arrest report said. The corporate office would be calling her the next day ... .and don't call police, but let Massage Envy "handle it internally."
If true, that would be a direct violation of Massage Envy's "Commitment to Safety," a six-point plan the company adopted in December after a BuzzFeed story claiming over 180 accusations of sexual assault by Massage Envy employees.
Under the "Reporting" point, Massage Envy's website says, "We are requiring that if a client makes an allegation of sexual assault, the franchisee will provide the client with contact information for local law enforcement and offer a private room to complete the call."
A Wednesday statement from Massage Envy LLC reiterated this policy:
“The reported conduct of the therapist is upsetting and unacceptable. The therapist is no longer employed by the franchisee, and the franchisee will continue to cooperate with law enforcement.
"While we can’t comment on the specifics of any investigation, our policy requires that 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.”
The franchisee, according to Sunbiz.com, is Southeast Causeway Investments, LLC which changed its name in 2009 from Massage Envy of Fort Lauderdale, LLC.
Whatever she was told, the woman immediately went to Fort Lauderdale police.. Detectives went to Massage Envy the next day and found the report the woman wrote for the establishment corresponded with what she told police.
The arrest report says Mendiz initially denied any penetration with his fingers or any skin-to-skin touching in that area. When told the woman had completed a rape kit with DNA swabs, the report says, Mendiz said he did massage the hip flexors near the pelvis.
He didn't know if this was Massage Envy protocol.