Coral Gables' Massage Envy Ignored Sex Assault Claims Before Therapist's Arrest, Lawsuit Says

In March 2017, Massage Envy therapist David Egusquiza was arrested after a woman told police he had sexually assaulted her during a massage at the company's Coral Gables location. But four months earlier, management at the spa had ignored another woman's report of being assaulted by the same masseur, a new lawsuit claims.

Filed in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court last month by the customer identified only as Jane Doe, the complaint says Egusquiza touched Doe's genitals intentionally and without her consent during a massage November 11, 2016. She reported the incident to management soon after, but no one at Massage Envy notified law enforcement, and Egusquiza remained employed as a massage therapist.

"The account that my client communicated to them was credible, it was specific, and it was timely," the woman's attorney, Alex Arteaga-Gomez, says. "Anyone that would have done a serious investigation of her account would have known that the only response would have been termination."

It's the latest in a series of sexual assault allegations against the Arizona-based massage empire. In November 2017, an explosive BuzzFeed News investigation found the company and its franchisees often mishandled or ignored such claims. Soon after, New Times discovered Massage Envy had a history of blaming victims for their own assaults when they sued.

Since then, Massage Envy has introduced a six-step plan to address its history of sexual assault claims. In a statement to New Times, the company said it could not comment specifically on pending litigation but emphasized its focus on safety. The firm also said its policy is to respect a victim's right to decide whether to involve law enforcement.

"Massage Envy is committed to promoting a safe environment for members, guests, and service providers at each of our 1,200 franchise locations nationwide," according to the statement. "We urge anyone that experiences anything other than a safe, quality massage to report it immediately to the franchise location so that it can be investigated."

In the most recent case, Doe argues that Massage Envy should have known Egusquiza posed a risk of assault. Two years before her appointment with him, he was arrested on felony strong-arm robbery and grand theft charges after a domestic violence incident. According to a Coral Gables Police Department arrest report, Egusquiza ripped a necklace off an ex-girlfriend's neck and then ran away with her purse.

"It is a serious arrest that involves violence on a woman, and a company that's going to employ you to be touching strangers day in, day out needs to take an extremely close look at that," Arteaga-Gomez says. "And it's not clear that they did anything." 

Court records show prosecutors declined to pursue the case. Doe knew nothing of it when she went to her appointment with Egusquiza in November 2016. After she reported the assault, Arteaga-Gomez says, Massage Envy employees assured her they were taking the report seriously. But internal records show they ultimately chose to simply counsel Egusquiza and review draping policies, the attorney says.

None of that was communicated to Doe.

"They never told her: 'We've decided to just have a talk with the guy,'" Arteaga-Gomez says. "They led her to believe that they would take much more serious action."

Months later, Doe came across a news story about Egusquiza's arrest. The victim in that case described an incident similar to Doe's: During a massage, the therapist had placed his finger inside the second victim's vagina. She told him to stop; he apologized and told her to keep it a secret. Instead, she went to police. Shocked, Doe jumped into action and sought out an attorney.

Court records show that in October 2017, seven months after his arrest for the March 2017 assault, Egusquiza pleaded guilty to a felony battery charge. He was sentenced to five years of probation.

Doe, who was unaware of that record, is still affected by her assault. "She lives with a degree of distrust about even the smallest pleasantries," Arteaga-Gomez says. 
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Brittany Shammas is a former staff writer at Miami New Times. She covered education in Naples before taking a job at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She joined New Times in 2016.
Contact: Brittany Shammas