Massage Envy employee accused of sexually assaulting client in Fort Lauderdale

Victim claims receptionist asked her not to call police

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A massage therapist was arrested Wednesday, a month after he sexually assaulted a customer at a Massage Envy in Fort Lauderdale, authorities said.

The incident was reported the night of March 9 at the Massage Envy at 1917 Cordova Road.

According to an arrest report, Juan Pablo Mendiz, 32, left the woman alone in the room to undress and returned after she was laying on her stomach with the covers covering her body.

The victim told police that Mendiz asked her if she lived nearby, and she responded that she didn't and was in town for spring break. 

Mendiz told her she looked "young," and then asked her where she would like him to start, the report stated.

The victim said she told him to start on her back and he complied.

She said he eventually massaged her legs and then stretched each leg, bending them one at a time. The victim told officers that she felt like her vagina was exposed, so she tried to push down so it wouldn't be.

She said Mendiz later lifted the sheets so she could turn onto her back, but he did not look away as her naked body was exposed.

According to the arrest report, the victim was uncomfortable but didn't know whether Mendiz's actions were part of Massage Envy protocol since she had never been to the business before and this was the second time she received a professional massage.

The victim told police that Mendiz massaged her legs as she was lying on her back and massaged her upper thighs, close to the groin area.

She said Mendiz asked her whether she played sports because her groin was tight.

The victim said she felt the blanket slowly shifting aside, exposing part of her vagina as Mendiz continued the massage, so she asked him, "Could you just focus on my legs?"

She said Mendiz said, "Yes," but then quickly digitally penetrated her against her will.

Out of "confusion and shock," the victim allowed Mendiz to continue massaging her upper body for two to five minutes before the massage session finished, authorities said. 

Police said the victim left the Massage Envy, and paced outside the business until another customer came out and she asked the woman whether what happened to her in her massage session was normal.

The other customer told her it was not, so the victim went back inside and told the receptionist what had happened, authorities said.

According to the arrest report, the receptionist took the victim to a private room and had her write down her claims on a piece of paper.

The victim said she was told not to call police and that the issue would be dealt with internally, and that someone from management would call her the next day.

But the victim called police after leaving the business. When an officer arrived, the business was already closed for the night.

Police said the victim was taken to a hospital to be examined.

Authorities said a detective met with Massage Envy management the next day and they provided the detective with the letter the victim wrote. The letter corroborated her claims to the responding officer, authorities said.

Police said the company suspended Mendiz after the detective's visit.

According to an arrest report, Mendiz met with the detective at Massage Envy's corporate office and claimed that he only touched the victim's groin area with the blanket while trying to cover her after she moved.

Police said he also claimed that the victim moved up instead of down when she was turning over, which exposed her chest.

According to the arrest report, Mendiz claimed that the victim also moved her leg while he was massaging it, causing part of her private area to be exposed. He said he had to cover it and that's when the victim told him something along the lines of, "I don't need that," authorities said.

The detective said Mendiz changed his story after he was told that the vitim completed a rape kit and claimed that he massaged her hip flexors near her pelvis. He said he didn't know whether massaging hip flexors was Massage Envy protocol, authorities said. 

Police said Mendiz refused to provide a DNA swab and requested an attorney.

According to the arrest report, Mendiz's attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, contacted the detective on March 12 and claimed that Mendiz was not telling the truth because he was scared to lose his job.

Police said  Eiglarsh told the detective that Mendiz claimed the victim "spread (her) legs and clearly gave him the indication that (she) wanted him to do" what he did. 

Police said Mendiz told his attorney that this was not uncommon in the massage industry with people around 40 to 50. 

Mendiz faces a charge of sexual battery and is being held at the main Broward County jail.

He appeared in court Thursday, when he pleaded not guilty to the charge.

"He has never had any complaints in his many years of being a licensed massage therapist," Eiglarsh told Local 10 News.

Local 10 News reporter Todd Tongen went to the Massage Envy in question Thursday, but a woman who worked there said, "No, he doesn't work here. I don't have any details to share with you."

"The reported conduct of the therapist is upsetting and unacceptable," Massage Envy said in a statement. "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."

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