(CBS) — A massage is supposed to be a calm, soothing experience, but that’s not what several Chicago patrons say they received when they went to local Massage Envy locations.
CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman reports on allegations of sexual assault on the massage table.
“As I was lying face down on the massage table I felt him press his aroused genitalia into my head,” said spa customer Beth Ernst.
It was Beth Ernst’s first massage that she got as a gift at the Streeterville Massage Envy location.
“His hands strayed and he was trying to touch my genitalia,” Ernst added. “I was stunned. I was angry. I was scared,” Ernst said, “and just really in shock.”
It turns out that a Massage Envy background check found her therapist, Geno Randazzo, had a misdemeanor drug possession conviction.
But, a CBS 2 Investigator check of court records reveals Randazzo was involved in more serious drug issues alleged by police.
Beth Ernst is now suing Randazzo and Massage Envy claiming the spa did not adequately vet Randazzo.
“A proper background check, he doesn’t get the job. Proper training, proper supervision, he’s not there on the day of the occurrence,” said attorney Louis Cairo.
By filing the lawsuit, Cairo said, “We want to try to prevent this from happening to other people.”
Randazzo could not be reached for comment.
And there’s been other trouble at the Streeterville Massage Envy.
“The next thing I remember he pulled down my boxers and grabbed my private part,” said another Massage Envy customer who wants to remain anonymous. For the purposes of this story he will be called “Paul.”
Paul filed a battery complaint with the police against Ken Lozada, the massage therapist.
Lozada was arrested and found guilty of misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to three months supervision and community service.
But, despite that charge, we found Lozado working as a licensed massage therapist at an Andersonville spa called Revive.
“That’s disgusting, he should in no way, shape or form be able to have a license and continuing practicing these services,” Paul said.
The owner of Revive told CBS 2 he does not do background checks on his massage therapists. Instead he relied, on the fact that Lozada was licensed by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, which does a background check when therapists are licensed. The owner said he would not have hired Lozada if he had known about the incident and has since let him go. Lozada could not be reached for comment.
Now “Paul” is suing Lozada and Massage Envy charging the spa with negligence.
“The suit alleges that my client was violated when he should’ve been provided a safe and secure environment,” said attorney Howard Ankin adding, “You’re in a highly vulnerable situation when you’re getting a massage.”
The CBS 2 Investigation found civil or criminal complaints alleging sexual abuse at Massage Envy locations in 13 other states and there are other incidents in the Chicago area.
Michael John Barnabee pleaded guilty to simple battery for fondling a woman’s breasts at a Naperville Massage Envy located at 2775 Showplace Drive. Barnabee’s massage therapy license was revoked by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation as a result of the conviction.
And, at the Massage Envy location at 191 S. Route 83 in Elmhurst, massage therapist Thaddeus Scott-Chew was recently charged with touching the crotch of a client.
“That’s unbelievable, obviously there’s a bigger problem, not just with this one venue and this masseuse but the organization as a whole,” said “Paul.”
The state licensing agency says victims need to report misconduct like this so it can take action. You can file a complaint online at http://www.idfpr.com/Admin/Complaints.asp.
In a written statement Massage Envy said: “Inappropriate conduct is a challenge for the entire massage therapy industry. Massage Envy Spa takes pride in leading the industry with its stringent hiring requirements and zero tolerance policy against inappropriate conduct. While even the most stringent of policies cannot completely eradicate this issue, our policies will (and do) ensure that the rate of incidents within Massage Envy Spa’s independently-owned, franchised locations is extraordinarily low. Nonetheless, we recognize that even one incident is too many, so we are working on innovative programs that have the potential to change the landscape for the entire industry including forming a broader coalition with educators, regulators and even our competitors, to address this issue our industry is facing.
It is also important to note that when an incident of inappropriate conduct does occur, despite our best prevention efforts, we strictly enforce our zero tolerance policy through serious consequences, including termination of therapists and/or franchise rights, when appropriate.”
All of the massage therapists named in this report are no longer with Massage Envy.