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I-Team: State allows massage therapist with sexual battery arrests to continue practicing

Victims say Massage Board needs to improve
Posted: 6:11 PM, Aug 25, 2016
Updated: 2016-08-26 05:53:38Z
Massage therapists accused of sexual assaults
Massage therapists accused of sexual assaults

The I-Team is uncovering massage therapists with several arrests or complaints and the state is allowing them to work.

"I actually have nightmares," said a Hillsborough woman.

"I thought his license would at least be suspended," a Pasco woman told us.

Both women said they were sexually assaulted while getting a massage from Eric Marshall.

"Why would I discuss my massage with ABC news?" Marshall told Investigator Jarrod Holbrook.

Reporter: "You've been arrested twice for sexual battery."

"No I have not been arrested.  These are allegations," Marshall answered.

The I-Team has mug shots and police reports from both of his sexual battery arrests.  Marshall's first arrest is tied to a 2014 incident at Ideal Massage in Pasco County. The victim claims Marshall inappropriately touched her private area.

"I've had a lot of anxiety and depression from it," she told us.

Ideal Massage fired him immediately, but shortly after, he started working at Essentials Massage in Brandon.

About 6 months after he was first arrested, a woman says he assaulted her. Essentials fired him immediately.

A Department of Health report states Marshall caused abrasions to her privates.

"I've been through counseling, psychiatrists, medications, nightmares.  My poor children-- you have no idea what my children have been through because of mom's behavior."

Marshall spoke to Investigative Reporter Jarrod Holbrook at his house. 

"Ya'll believe everything ya'll hear." he said.

"I'm here to get the other side, your side sir," Jarrod responded.

"Ahhh! I ain't gonna put this on TV yo," Marshall added.

"Well, what is your side sir?" Jarrod asked.

"I'm innocent," Marshall replied.

The Department of Health states his ability to work on women "constitutes an immediate, serious danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the public"

After looking into Marshall's disciplinary history, we found nearly two years after the first reported incident, and with two sexual battery arrests, Marshall can still practice massage therapy in Florida.

The Department of Health disciplined him in late June, and that was just a restriction on massaging women.  Men are ok.

"This is completely disturbing on so many levels," the Hillsborough woman told us.

Both women say the state's massage licensing board, under the Department of Health, needs to change how they discipline therapists.

"It was upsetting because I felt like nothing happened and her case totally could've been prevented," said the Pasco woman.

The I-Team found several other local cases where massage therapists received a similar restriction.

Department of Health records show Murtagh Meyler is accused of sexually assaulting a woman at a Massage Envy in Largo in May.

Gesler Garcia is accused of sexually assaulting a woman last October at a Massage Envy in Brandon.

Both no longer work at the Masage Envy locations and are restricted from massaging women.  But again, men are ok.

Gregory Hilbert in St Pete has five complaints of sexual assault in the past five years with the Department of Health.

The massage board finally revoked his license just this past May.

We talked to Victoria Drago who sits on the states Massage Board.

"Why is he ok to massage men?"

"I can't answer that question for you. I really can't," said Drago.

The state's Massage Board has the final say in disciplinary actions.

The board is made of volunteer massage therapists who are appointed by the Governor.

We asked her about Eric Marshall's case.

"Speaking for the board, it is a case by case," said Drago.

"But I'm asking specifically about this case, ma'am," Jarrod asked.

"I'm sure we took everything into consideration with this and did the appropriate thing," Drago responded.

"So you don't feel it needs to be re-evaluated at all?" 

"No," she answered.

"Not according to the board we have made our decision."

To understand why it takes a long time to discipline massage therapists, health department reps sent us a flow chart.

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These are the steps each complaint has to go through to get to a final decision.

The Hillsborough woman who complained says the massage board did not respond in an appropriate manner.

"I feel they could've acted way sooner. It could have saved way more lives and way more trauma on people," she said.

Eric Marshall says he's currently massaging men and plans to continue his career.

"A lot of people are going to see this.  What would you like to say to them?"

"People in Pasco and Hillsborough... Hey, once this (is) over with, come get a massage."

Both criminal cases against Marshall are still pending. He pleaded not guilty.

You can look up the disciplinary history of massage therapists .

Head over to I-Team Investigator Jarrod Holbrook's facebook page for a video tutorial .

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