Colombian restaurant owner accused of sexually harassing employees not authorized to work in US

Employee who first came forward says owner’s wife told her that’s how he is, that she needed to ‘get used to it’

A South Florida business owner was arrested on accusations that he repeatedly sexually harassed his female employees at the Colombian restaurant he owns in Doral.

DORAL, Fla. – A South Florida business owner was arrested on accusations that he repeatedly sexually harassed his female employees at the Colombian restaurant he owns in Doral.

Felix Cortez, 55, was taken into custody Friday on charges of aggravated stalking and battery.

According to his arrest report, the first victim who came forward to police said Cortez started harassing her at his restaurant, La Cocina De Martina, on May 4 when she started working there. She said she told Cortez that she did not have a legal work permit to work in the United States, but that she needed a job.

Cortez hired her and said this would not be a problem, assigning her to cook, clean, and serve in his restaurant, authorities said.

According to the report, the victim told police that ever since her first day of work, Cortez made sexual comments and obscene remarks to her on a daily basis.

The report also states that Cortez touched the victim’s breasts, vagina, and buttocks area without her consent. The victim explained that Cortez would also follow her into the pantry area in the kitchen, close the door behind him and demand the victim perform oral sex on him, which she refused, authorities said.

The victim tried to reach out to Cortez’s wife for help, but she said Sandra Prieto told her that she would have to get used to it, because that’s how her husband is, the report states.

The employee said she was afraid to come forward to the police, since she knows she is working illegally, as are the rest of the victims she claims Cortez has harassed in his restaurant.

According to the victim, all of the victims are single mothers from Colombia who are working in the U.S. illegally and who are in fear of being deported back to Colombia.

The victim and one of the witnesses to these actions came forward to police. Police said Pietro called the victim to beg her not to talk to the police. Several text messages were exchanged between Pietro and the victim saying that Pietro would talk to her husband to stop the harassment, authorities said.

According to the arrest report, a controlled called was conducted on Thursday between the victim and Cortez. After investigators heard what Cortez had to say, they ended the call, which then led to Cortez repeatedly calling the victim throughout the night, the report stated.

On Friday, Doral police officers along with investigators arrived at Cortez’s restaurant and he was placed into custody.

The arrest report states that when Cortez was asked about the inappropriate touching with the victim, he denied it.

After the initial victim came forward to police, they said they have since identified multiple victims.


About the Authors:

Bridgette Matter joined the Local 10 News team as a reporter in July 2021. Before moving to South Florida, she began her career in South Bend, Indiana and spent six years in Jacksonville as a reporter and weekend anchor.