Florida

Six Florida massage therapists disciplined after allegations of sexual misconduct

Five Florida massage therapists lost their licenses in April and a sixth is on the verge of losing his, each after facing sexual misconduct allegations. Two LMTs worked for Massage Envy chain; two others worked for the Hand & Stone chain.
Five Florida massage therapists lost their licenses in April and a sixth is on the verge of losing his, each after facing sexual misconduct allegations. Two LMTs worked for Massage Envy chain; two others worked for the Hand & Stone chain.

At least five Florida licensed massage therapists lost or voluntarily surrendered their licenses in the face of sexual misconduct allegations in April and a sixth was hit with three Florida Department of Health Emergency Restriction Orders.

The man slapped with three EROs, 44-year-old Ruslan Grushco, also faces three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation on a person under 12 years old.

Ruslan Grushco mugshot
Ruslan Grushco Sarasota County Sheriff's Office

Media coverage of Grushco's February arrest on battery charges after three Massage Envy clients claimed he improperly fondled them in 2017 caught the attention of a Sarasota County woman. She called the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office to say Grushco abused her when her mother and Grushco were a couple in the early 2000s.

Grushco sits in Sarasota County jail with a $110,000 bond.

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Another licensed massage therapist who faced criminal charges is Naples resident Carlos Amador, who got a year's probation for one count of battery. Amador, 53, surrendered his license as part of the plea deal. A woman who went to Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa in Naples last May described Amador as inappropriately touching her several ways, including cupping her breast and twice putting his whole hand on her genitals.

"At this point, the victim described to me that she was completely panicked and frightened," the arrest report reads. "Carlos 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."

Carlos Amador mugshot
Carlos Amador Collier County Sheriff's Office

Grushco and Amador both worked for chains, Massage Envy and Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa, respectively. So did David Nazario, who voluntarily surrendered his license after being accused of fondling a woman's breast and genitals during a massage at an Orlando Hand & Stone.

And there was another Massage Envy employee, Ruben Saenz. He worked at the Wellington location when a client said he touched her breasts. His license was revoked after he failed to respond in a timely manner to Department of Health discipline filings.

After a BuzzFeed story said more than 180 sexual assaults had been reported at Massage Envy locations, the chain issued a "Commitment to Safety" in December and said it would start several preventative measures in 2018. Still, a woman in Fort Lauderdale for spring break accused not only Massage Envy LMT Juan Pablo Mendiz of fondling her, but said the staff asked her to not go to police.

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The other two licenses relinquished in April belonged to Delray Beach's James Russell and Brooksville's Brandi Hill.

brandi Hill mugshot
Brandi Hill aka Brandi Camille Mali Hernando County Sheriff's Office

Hill gave up her license after the Department of Health found a 2017 Hernando County Sheriff's Office arrest under "Brandi Camille Mali" that alleged sexual battery with a vibrator and another sex toy against a minor to whom she gave alcohol and marijuana. Hill pleaded not guilty to two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. That case is pending.

Though Russell, 63, said in Department of Health filings that back, neck and age issues pushed him toward giving up his license and closing Massage Delray, he denied the fondling allegations made against him. Russell also claimed the accusing client came back for a massage the following week.

Powerful men continue to be accused of sexual harassment and assaults, and have been responding by accepting, hedging or dodging the allegations.

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