A Missouri woman is suing Fenton-based Massage Luxe and one of its employees, saying she was assaulted during a massage at its Creve Coeur location in April 2017.
The woman, who is identified only as Jane Doe in the suit, says a masseur on staff revealed and viewed her genitals and then touched and rubbed her buttocks and genitals. The lawsuit names the masseur as Mathewe Langston.
"Following the massage, Defendant Langston tried to give Plaintiff a hug, and told her that she was so tight, and that’s why he spent so much time 'there,'" the suit alleges. She says she immediately reported the assault to a MassageLuxe manager — and then called police that night.
The suit indicates that police interviewed Langston, but there is no record suggesting charges were filed against him.
A staffer who answered the phone at Massage Luxe in Creve Coeur said he couldn't provide any information, including whether Langston still works there. He agreed to pass on a request for comment to the massage chain's corporate office but couldn't say whether he could get one to Langston. [In a statement we received after publishing, the company has taken issue with some of the claims in the suit. See our update below.)
The lawsuit says that the masseur told police that, "although he did not 'notice touching' Plaintiff’s genitals, the sheet may have come up revealing her and causing 'contact' with her genitals. He further told the officer that Plaintiff’s “body type” may have affected the massage.
"In other words," writes attorney Nicole Gorovsky, "Defendant Langston did not deny exposing or touching Plaintiff’s genitals but instead blamed the sheet and Plaintiff directly for the assault."
Gorovsky's suit, filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court, accuses the company of mishandling the assault claim. Jane Doe says she was worried because Langston was not immediately placed on leave, and could have access to records showing her address. She later moved as a result, and also went to a different location, in Brentwood, to cancel her membership.
"When asked why she was canceling, Plaintiff told the desk employees that she had been sexually assaulted by a massage therapist at the Creve Coeur location," the suit says. "The employees did not ask for the name of the massage therapist or ask how they could help Plaintiff, but instead merely stated 'that would never happen here.'"
St. Louis-based Massage Luxe has 29 locations in eleven states.
Last fall, a former masseur at the company's location in Edwardsville was found guilty of sexually assaulting a customer. Four women testified against him, the Belleville News-Democrat reported
“Massage spas are places where customers are in vulnerable positions," Gorovsky said in a press release. "They trust that even though they are vulnerable in a massage room, the company has done a good job of protecting them – by vetting, training and supervising the employees. When they do not do these things, people get hurt.”
Todd Beckman, the founder and former CEO of Massage Luxe's parent company, BAM Brands, has been in the criminal justice for reasons unrelated to sexual assault in recent years: Beckman was charged in federal court in 2016 with participating in the kidnapping of a young associate.
Beckman admitted to being part of a drug ring that imported large quantities of marijuana from California for resale in the Midwest
, and was part of a plot to have the associate kidnapped and tortured after he allegedly double-crossed them. Beckman pleaded guilty in November 2017
and was given a twenty-year prison sentence.
In a statement, Massage Luxe said this:
Massage Luxe International has not yet seen the complaint allegedly filed by a prior client of a Massage Luxe location. We have, however, reviewed records relating to the alleged incident. Importantly, at the time of the incident, this client gave a written and signed report of her complaint to the Massage Luxe location allegedly involved. That written report is not consistent with the allegations which appear (through media reports) to be included in the legal filing.
The client also made a report to the Creve Coeur police at the time of the alleged incident. After the police conducted their investigation, to our knowledge, there were no charges pursued against the therapist.
The company says that is has policies that include criminal background checks before hires, as well as suspend any employees accused in a complaint "if warranted."
"Massage Luxe International is highly sensitive to these issues; particularly in light of the therapeutic massage services available at Massage Luxe locations," the statement continued. "Massage Luxe International will continue to strive to have all of our franchisees provide excellent therapeutic massage services to all clients in a safe, secure and comfortable environment."
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