Blackout victims at Mexico resorts have little hope of justice

The young woman behind the desk at the police station in Playa del Carmen toggled between her cellphone and computer, Snap Chatting with friends and scrolling through Facebook, as she asked the young man from Boston whether he had ever enjoyed sex.

How that was relevant, he didn’t know. He was at the police department in the small Mexican city south of Cancun to report that he had just been drugged and raped while receiving a massage at a world-renowned resort and spa.

The young man was told that the woman — Claudia, as he recalls — was a psychologist. They sat in a windowless room and after a while she handed him some paper and told him to draw some pictures. No stick figures. As detailed as possible.

A tree. A man. A woman. A person trapped in the rain without an umbrella.

Now draw your family, she said. The 29-year-old man broke down. All he wanted to do was to get home, see his family. The senseless questions and exercises were too much.

But he had to stay — had to endure a four-hour psychological test, a humiliating physical exam and then miss his flight home — if he had any hope of getting justice and stopping the perpetrator from harming anyone else.

He drew the picture.

Three months later, there’s no sign of justice; no indication Mexican police pursued the case. The man is back home, struggling through the emotional aftermath.

The despair and frustration he’s facing are familiar to dozens of vacationers who have been victimized at upscale, all-inclusive Mexican resorts.

Following blackouts, robberies, assaults, even the death of a loved one, they have experienced indifferent — if not hostile — treatment from resort staffers, local police, and doctors, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation has found.

The harm is worsened when travelers quickly learn that catching criminals, filing a lawsuit and otherwise obtaining justice in Mexico is nearly impossible.

And that the U.S. Department of State does little or nothing to help them.

“The laws in Mexico make it very, very difficult to hold anyone accountable,” said Nancy Winkler, a Philadelphia attorney who represented a family whose 22-year-old son drowned in a Mexican resort pool in 2007. “It’s a nightmare.”

For most, the trouble started when they blacked out after drinking small or moderate amounts of alcohol at resort bars. Often the blackouts happened simultaneously among couples and friends, something none had previously experienced.

While many said they woke up hours later and found no obvious crime had been committed, others described regaining consciousness to learn they had been sexually assaulted, taken to jail, robbed, kicked out of their hotels, swindled by local hospitals and ambulance companies.

Whether they drank bad alcohol, were deliberately drugged or something else — they can’t say for certain.

As much as 36% of the alcohol consumed in the country is sold or produced illegally, and potentially dangerous, according to a 2017 industry and government report. In a crackdown last week that followed the Journal Sentinel investigation, the government seized 10,000 gallons of illicit alcohol from a company that was supplying tourist hot spots around Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

In all, the Journal Sentinel has heard from more than 60 people from across the United States and Canada with similar stories in the weeks since it began investigating the death of a young Wisconsin woman on vacation in Mexico with her parents and brother. And the number continues to grow.

The majority of travelers stayed in resorts around Cancun, Playa del Carmen and other beaches in Riviera Maya. Several had been to hotels just to the east in Cozumel and others on the west coast in Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta. Many had visited Mexico multiple times. For a few, it was their first visit.

They described resort staffers who stood idle while loved ones vomited, lost consciousness and bled heavily. Hotel managers who refused to help, defaulting to the same refrain: Nothing we can do. Too much alcohol. Go to the hospital — with cash.

When injured tourists turned to police, an instinctive step for many Americans, they were often stonewalled again. For starters, resorts in Mexico don’t typically call law enforcement to the scene. Vacationers have to take complaints to the police station.

The few who did encountered further indifference: Nothing to investigate. It was an accident. You were drunk.

In one case, a woman who was sexually assaulted by a hotel security guard in October 2010, while walking back to the lobby, because her room key had been deactivated, said the police chief overseeing her case seemed genuinely concerned and determined to help her.

Mario Gomez Frias was his name. He was chief of police for tourists. The chief tried to get the Iberostar Paraiso Maya resort to cooperate with the investigation and to provide photos of security staff.

Frias was shot dead in his squad car months later. Local news reports said it was likely a killing meant to intimidate law enforcement.

The following year, another young woman was raped at the resort by a man wearing a security guard uniform.

Travelers who went to a hospital — some gravely sick — were often met with demands for cash before being provided care.

Rick Autrey, a barber from Dallas, was pulled from a resort pool in May, pulseless and blue. While he was unconscious, his friend had to put $10,000 on his credit card to ensure Autrey would receive care.

Autrey’s wife and children flew down from Texas the next day to be by his side. Upon arrival, the hospital charged his wife tens of thousands more. In all, their bill totaled more than $50,000, including the airlift back to Texas.

“They handed her an invoice every time she passed the desk,” said Autrey, who has not been able to return to work since the injury.

* * *

The plan was for Heidi Sorrem to take a shower first. That way she could dry her long, blonde hair and get ready while her husband, Corey, showered. The two had been on the beach and at the Valentin Imperial Riviera Maya resort pool for a couple of hours and were getting dressed for dinner.

It was September. They were in Mexico for the first time, celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary, excited for a few days away from their Greenfield home and thankful that their parents and grandparents had offered to care for their two young sons.

Down at the swim-up bar, they had ordered frozen fruity drinks followed by “Mexican Flag” shots suggested by the bartender. The shot had tasted terrible, but the bartender had spent time trying to layer the colors — green, white and red.

They chatted with an older couple visiting from Texas. The woman wore a big hat. Everyone was eager for a Michael Jackson impersonator scheduled for later in the evening.

The Texas couple suggested they all do a shot together. It was an all-inclusive resort; the drinks were free.

Soon after, the Sorrems, both 35 at the time, headed back to their room on the third floor in one of the nearby buildings.

The next thing Corey remembers is waking up on the couch. He found Heidi on the bathroom floor.

“I’m like, ‘What are you doing? Why aren’t you in the shower? I thought we were going to dinner?’” he said.

Then nothing. He doesn’t remember her response, or even if she responded. He blacked out again.

When he woke up — not sure how much later — the bathroom was empty. Heidi was gone.

* * *

Impunity. That’s the pervading factor that experts say plagues the Mexican judicial system, year after year.

“Nobody gets convicted for anything,” said Clare Ribando Seelke, a specialist in Latin American affairs with the Congressional Research Service. “The rule of law is not really there.”

In fact, as many as 92% of crimes go unreported and uninvestigated in Mexico, according to a 2015 victims survey by the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Geografia. The main reason: lack of trust in the authorities.

Of those crimes that are reported, fewer than 5% result in convictions, according to another study by the Center of Studies on Impunity and Justice at Universidad de Las Americas, published in 2015.

Essentially, that means about 99% of crimes go unpunished. Mexico ranks second highest in the world on the Global Impunity Index, just behind the Philippines, according to a 2016 report from the same university.

Drug trafficking, organized crime and other lawlessness reign. Already this year, nearly 14,000 people have been killed, more than 130 in Cancun. The government has been unable to protect Mexican journalists, meaning less oversight and accountability that comes with public awareness. Four journalists have been killed to date in 2017 in retaliation for their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Murders of two more are under investigation.

Impunity and the chaos it fosters is of such importance — not just to Mexico but the United States — that the U.S. Congress has authorized spending $1.6 billion over the last decade, in part, to support an overhaul of Mexico’s law enforcement and judicial systems.

The new judicial system took effect — at least on paper — in mid-2016, but hasn’t been widely embraced or implemented, according to a June report by the Congressional Research Service.

As it stands, many police officers aren’t trained as investigators; evidence collection skills and forensic analysis capabilities are lacking; torture, bribery and forced confessions are commonplace.

Aimed at improving transparency and curtailing corruption, torture and other human rights abuses, the new system replaces Mexico’s longstanding closed-door system with one closer to that used in the U.S.

But changing mindsets and ending entrenched practices of police, prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges is no small task. Policy experts say it could take more than a decade to see significant change.

Much is at stake when it comes to tourism and the perception among travelers that their vacation destination is safe. Tourism accounts for more than 8% of Mexico’s gross domestic product. The $20 billion industry directly employs more than 4 million workers, according to the latest figures from the World Travel & Tourism Council. 

Mexico is the top international travel destination for Americans, attracted by archaeological ruins, romantic beaches and vibrant nightlife.

Cancun, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta are favorites among tourists, drawing in nearly 10 million international visitors in 2016. The vast majority stayed in the nation’s 200 all-inclusive resorts.

Relatively inexpensive and convenient for Americans, with a semblance of sophistication and safety, the all-inclusives are especially alluring. Many vacationers spend their entire stays inside the walls of the resorts, feeling as if they have the protections of home, not realizing their constitutional rights don’t cross the border, should they need them.

“From the Mexican perspective, they can’t even find 43 students who disappeared, were tortured and killed,” said Ribando Seelke, who co-authored the June report to Congress entitled “U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mérida Initiative and Beyond.

“They have people hacked to bits every day and nobody cares.”

Earl Anthony Wayne, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico under President Barack Obama, said the system has failed the majority of the Mexican population — and it’s no different for visitors.

“The justice system is the justice system, for everybody,” said Wayne, now with the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. “There isn’t a separate system for Americans and Europeans … And the whole law enforcement system is strained.”

* * *

Rick Autrey, the barber from Texas, was at the Hard Rock Cancun in May, courtesy of a friend who won the trip through work.

They had just arrived and were at the pool bar drinking rum-and-Cokes. His friend went back to the room. Autrey said he would meet him there shortly.

Instead, he blacked out and floated face down into a group of people standing in the chest-deep water. At first they thought he was pranking them. When he didn’t respond, they realized he was nearly dead.

Somebody pulled him up on the bar and started giving him CPR. That continued until an ambulance came and took him to one hospital and then — several hours later —  to another in Cancun, both part of a chain called Hospiten that contracts with resorts.

He was in a coma for two days, then suddenly opened his eyes.

His wife was at his side. She told him to blink if he understood what she was saying. He did. Their kids came in the room and asked him to squeeze their hands. He did. Then he fell back asleep.

The family hired a medivac jet to fly him out the next day.

Autrey has yet to return to work at his barber shop. A wound on his foot hasn’t healed, and doctors told him to wait before he stands on it all day. Insurance has covered about $10,000 of the $50,000 bill. The family is hoping it will cover more.

Like others, he longs for justice. But there was no police investigation, and the hotel would not provide the family with footage from surveillance cameras at the pool.

When he read stories about what happened to others, it gave him chills.

“They are scary similar,” Autrey said. “But you can’t prove anything. I can’t prove it was tainted alcohol.”

He doesn't think a few rum-and-Cokes incapacitated him.

“I’m 60 years old. It’s not like I’m going down there binge drinking, lining up shots.”

* * *

When Corey Sorrem regained consciousness, his wife was missing. Their hotel room door was open.

He shouted down the hallway. He yelled off the balcony. Then he looked down. Three stories below.

Legs.

That’s all he could see. Legs splayed on the concrete. He ran down the stairs.
There was Heidi, lying on the ground, unconscious and naked, bleeding from the head and mouth.

It was dark. There were a few people standing around. He shouted for help.

“I was asking for anything, any help, anything that anyone could do. And everyone just sat there.”

Hotel staff eventually brought towels to cover Heidi and called for the resort doctor. When he arrived, he didn’t take Heidi’s pulse, check her head, or try to stop the bleeding, Corey said. The doctor said they would have to call an ambulance — and wait.

“I thought she was dead,” Corey said.

At Hospiten Cancun, hospital staff demanded $6,000 before agreeing to treat Heidi.

“They would not put stitches, they would not give a Band-Aid, even give me a towel or anything,” Corey said.  “They refused to do anything without money.”

* * *

The U.S. Department of State does not track how many people are injured in foreign countries every year. The agency’s data show that 75 U.S. citizens were killed in Mexico in 2016 and that 39 Americans drowned. Beyond that, details are sparse.

The agency can’t say how many citizens have called to report being drugged, assaulted or robbed. It can’t say how many citizens pursue legal action as a result of being harmed. Nor does the agency track complaints about hospital care or costs.

The department doesn't keep that "level of granularity," a spokeswoman told the Journal Sentinel.

If it did, it might have detected the problems and sounded an alarm.

It wasn't until after the Journal Sentinel reports that the department added language to its website warning travelers about problems with alcohol at Mexican resorts, but even that isn't easy to find.

As it stands, workers at the U.S. consulate offices in Mexico have little ability to help U.S. citizens who have been victims of crimes. The workers cannot advocate on behalf of the citizens. They cannot translate the language. They cannot offer legal advice or help investigate a situation.

“We cannot investigate. Period,” said Uzma Javed, an officer with the department’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services. “We don’t have the jurisdiction … We are very limited in what we can and cannot do.”

The one thing they can do for victims of crimes is help them contact local authorities and accompany them to the police department or hospital if asked.

Hospiten, the private hospital chain that contracts with Iberostar Hotels & Resorts and other resorts in the area, said the company treated more than 24,000 people from all countries in its five emergency departments in Mexico last year, the vast majority in Cancun and Riviera Maya.

Hospiten officials acknowledged, in a written statement to the Journal Sentinel, that when a patient arrives “administrative procedures are initiated to guarantee the necessary financial resources” for treatment.

“Every patient who goes to the emergency department of our hospitals, without exception and regardless of their nationality and economic condition, receives timely and adequate medical attention based on personal circumstances and seriousness of their illness,” the statement said.

There’s nothing that officers with the U.S. consulate can do about the way hospitals conduct business and treat U.S. citizens, Javed said. 

“When we hear about these types of cases, we reach out to the hospital and let them know,” she said. “We’re not able to force this on them.

“It’s not like in the U.S. where you go into the ER and they bill you later.”

* * *


Nolan Webster never made it to the hospital.

His body lay on a lounge chair by the pool for several hours after he drowned at a busy Cancun resort on a bright January day in 2007. Hotel staff covered his body with towels.

He was 22, at the Grand Oasis Hotel from Massachusetts with his girlfriend, celebrating his college graduation just two weeks earlier. 

Titto Chickee, an emergency room nurse from London, Ontario, was there that day.

Chickee had just arrived and was scoping out the pool area in the late afternoon when he heard people yelling for help:

Does anyone know CPR?

He raced over. Webster was lying at the side of the pool, turning blue as the guests around him scrambled to figure out what to do.

Chickee immediately began CPR, but when hotel security guards arrived, they quickly pulled him off Webster.

“Security kept saying, ‘Leave him alone. He’s drunk, he’s drunk,’” Chickee told the Journal Sentinel. “I was saying ‘I don’t care if he’s drunk, he’s blue and he’s not breathing.’ ”

Chickee's CPR had gotten Webster breathing again — short, labored breaths. Webster had coughed up water and foam and a little color had returned to his face. But Chickee could see that he was starting to turn blue again.

He frantically shouted at the security staff and on-site doctor, who had since arrived, that the man needed oxygen. They didn’t move. Chickee broke loose and tried to grab the oxygen bag from the doctor’s medical kit.

“I was lifted up and held on the ground,” he said. “I started fearing for my life. I could not comprehend why nobody would help him, how anyone could have such disregard for human life.

"To this day, it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.”

For days, Chikee searched the Internet to find Nolan Webster’s parents to let them know what had happened.

On a Friday nearly two weeks after her son’s death, Maureen Webster was at her home near Boston when she received an email from Chickee.

In it, he told her how resort staff “did nothing, and just stood there while (her son) died.”

“I am extremely distraught and disgusted by these circumstances,” he wrote. “Please contact me to discuss further, I cannot rest until you know the truth.”

“Thank God you found me,” Webster replied. “I have heard so many people mention you and I prayed we would find you.”

Other people who witnessed what happened also reached out to the Websters.

“I want you to have an exact account of what we saw because what we saw was greatly upsetting and very wrong,” wrote one couple, Etienne and Kenneth Marchione of Westford, Mass.

They told how Chickee "was very, very distraught and hysterical, tears were coming off of his face because he tried so very hard only to have the Mexican emergency response and Grand Oasis personnel force him to get away.”

“My husband and I are still in complete shock and we only hope you will find a way to justice in your son’s death,” the Marchiones wrote.

They said Nolan had been smiling and jumping around in the water just minutes earlier and appeared to be “jolly and happy.” Nobody reported that he appeared drunk.

Erin Hambleton was there that day as well. She wrote to Webster saying that had the resort staff taken action “this boy might have had a fighting chance, but they did not give him the opportunity.”

Others detailed how Webster’s girlfriend came down from their room a few minutes later not realizing what had happened. She screamed, began crying hysterically and “crumpled.”

Multiple people reported that resort staff picked her up by her hands and feet and carried her away.

Maureen Webster’s attorney, Nancy Winkler, said suing foreign-based businesses is very difficult.

Those who are victims of crimes at resorts that own U.S. assets, and those who booked their trips through agencies that have U.S. ties, have better odds of holding companies accountable.

In Maureen Webster's case, she booked the trip for her son through Pennsylvania-based Apple Vacations. She sued them, the travel agency and Oasis Hotels. All three agreed to settlements for confidential sums.

The key: Reliable testimony from Chickee and more than a dozen eyewitness accounts. Other victims typically start with little or nothing on which to build a legal case.

The settlements provided no solace for Webster, however. Looking back, she thinks the lawsuit had no impact in forcing improvements.

"I absolutely do NOT think it did one damn bit of good to hold them accountable or cause them to make any changes," she wrote in an email. "I hated settling. Hardest decision I've ever made in my life."

Oasis Hotels did not respond to multiple emails from the Journal Sentinel seeking comment.

Webster launched a website, mexicovacationawareness.com, in hopes of spreading the word about what happened to her son, the dangers of Mexico, and to provide a space for others to share their experiences.

That's how she met Karen Smith.

Smith's son, Brian Mannuci, drowned in the same pool, under similar circumstances. Four years later.

Smith has not filed a lawsuit. There was no police investigation into her son's death. Witnesses have said little and the resort maintained it has no video surveillance.

“I naively believed that the Mexican authorities would conduct an investigation,” Smith said in an email. “I also assumed the U.S. Embassy would get involved and between the two of them I'd find out exactly what happened, what he was drinking, who he was with, etc. None of that happened.

“I reluctantly gave up since we had nothing to go on ... no witnesses, no police report, no travel agency, etc.”

And as a result, "no closure," she said.

On Jan. 7 of this year, Abbey Conner, the 20-year-old Wisconsin woman, was pulled from a resort pool 30 miles down the road.

It was 10 years to the day after Nolan Webster's death.

* * *
Doctors in Mexico told Corey Sorrem that his wife just needed stitches — 11 of them on the back of her head. They said a scan had shown her brain was fine.

And that he would need to pay another $5,000.

Family in Wisconsin provided a credit card number and urged them to get back to the United States as soon as possible.

When Heidi walked off the plane in Milwaukee, a day and a half later, her mother fought back tears.

“I wasn’t prepared to see her like that,” said Mary Falk. “She could barely hold her head up.”

When Heidi went to the bathroom in the airport, she moaned in pain and wondered why the inside of her legs hurt so much, Falk recalled. They took her straight to the hospital, first to Sinai Medical Center, then over to St. Luke's Hospital.

Doctors discovered she had a fractured skull and bruising on her brain.

They told her family it was a miracle she survived the flight home. They said her head wound appeared to be from blunt force trauma, rather than from a three-story fall.

Corey, too, said from where her body was found, closer to the building, it didn’t seem like she could have gone over the balcony.

But there was no investigation. Resort staff didn’t summon police.

Heidi’s bottom teeth had been knocked loose. Her elbow was sprained and her arm wouldn’t extend.

The insides of her upper thighs were bruised and raw, almost like a burn. Her buttocks were scrapped and bruised. But there was no physical evidence of sexual assault.

“I don’t know how somebody could have had those injuries and not have been raped,” said Heidi’s sister, Lauralie Benidt.

Nearly a year later, Heidi still goes to weekly physical therapy sessions and receives treatment for severe headaches. She’s lost her sense of smell and taste. She doesn’t like being alone.

Benidt says her sister’s personality is different as well.

“Of the three siblings, she’s the emotional one,” Benidt said. “I kept wondering ‘Why isn’t Heidi showing emotion?' They said because of the area of her brain that endured the bruising was the personality portion of her brain. She probably never will be the same. Her brain will never go back to the way it was.”

Benidt says the incident has put a strain on the whole family as they’ve tried to make sense of what happened. She and their parents found it hard to believe that neither Corey nor Heidi could remember anything that happened.

Benidt said she is ashamed to admit now that they secretly wondered whether Corey could have harmed Heidi.

“Your heart is so broken, you go to dark places,” she said. “You desperately want answers.”

But they had never seen him have a temper or get drunk. He was a family man who was very protective of Heidi and the kids. The couple had worked hard to save up for the trip and were almost giddy to be going away on a romantic vacation.

“He’s an amazing dad and amazing husband to my sister,” she said.

They couldn’t picture it. It didn’t make sense. But neither did anything else.

Until they heard the stories of other couples who had blacked out simultaneously in Mexico after two or three drinks and woken with broken bones and other injuries.

* * *

A group of eight women — all celebrating their 60th birthdays — stayed at the same resort last year, about seven weeks before the Sorrems were there.

Pat Bueltmann, a travel agent from St. Louis, was among them.

While there, one of her lifelong friends ordered a margarita from the walk-up side of the pool bar. It was strong. When the bartender asked if she wanted another, she declined and asked for some ice to help water down the little that remained in her cup.

It was late morning. The woman doesn’t remember the rest of the day.

Bueltmann does. She said her friend soon began acting very strange. Not in a rowdy or drunk way. Just lost. She didn’t know how to find her way to the bathroom or do common tasks.

When they went to the buffet lunch, the friend returned to the table, held out her empty plate and said quietly to Bueltmann, “I don’t know what to do.”

“I was like, ‘What do you mean you don’t know what to do?’” Bueltmann said.

She wasn’t stumbling or slurring her words like she was drunk.

She put a few random and incompatible foods on her plate and covered them all with nacho cheese sauce.

“It was so odd,” Bueltmann said.

The friend later sat outside their hotel room after emptying her purse on the floor in search of her room key. She sat with her head in her hands and cried.

The group cancelled their excursion plans for the following day. Was their friend having a stroke or some other medical issue? She wasn’t on any prescription medication. Her friends were baffled.

“We even said, ‘Do you think somebody slipped something in her drink?’ But really? That’s far-fetched.”

The woman woke up fine the next day with no recollection of anything that happened. She didn’t suffer any repeat occurrences or new medical conditions during this last year. The Journal Sentinel confirmed the story with the woman, who asked not to be named.

“All this time, we never knew what even to think about it,” Bueltmann said.

As a travel agent, Bueltmann says she doesn’t want to overreact, but she’s reluctant to recommend trips to Mexico now.

“Do I want to cause a scare? No. Do we ignore this and sweep it under the rug? No. How can we all just walk away and ignore this?”

* * *

The Grand Velas Riviera Maya resort is included on AAA’s exclusive "Five Diamond Award" list and is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, a network of more than 375 luxury resorts that are approved by the organization’s executive committee. Nightly prices at the Grand Velas start upwards of $600.

The man from Boston was staying at a nearby resort in May, but sought out the Grand Velas for its world-famous spa. He booked an 80-minute massage and was assigned a therapist named Diego.

He had a Mimosa or a similar drink at brunch hours earlier and felt fine. No alcohol since. At the start of the massage, he was lying on his stomach, his face in the cradle of the table. The therapist put something under his nose and told him to breathe in. He figured it was some type of aromatherapy oil that massage therapists commonly use to help clients relax.

He fell deeply asleep. The man, who isn't being named per the Journal Sentinel's policy pertaining to victims of sexual assault, told the newspaper that he awoke to find he was being sexually assaulted. When he tried to get up, he felt weak and the therapist pushed him back down.   

When it was over, he complained to a hotel manager. That night, he called the U.S. Consulate. He filed a police report and went to the hospital. He stayed in Mexico an extra six days to the ensure paperwork — much of which has to be filed in person — and other procedures of the Mexican judicial system were properly followed.

Once home, he wrote letters to the hotel and to executives of The Leading Hotels of the World, AAA and American Express, since Grand Velas was included in its Fine Hotels & Resorts program.

He sought out help from an attorney who handled many of the cases against Catholic priests in Boston.

To date, he has yet to hear whether Mexican authorities are pursuing criminal charges.

Everyone with a stake in the issue appears to have sided with the resort.

"Thank you for sharing this with me. I am simply speechless and very much feel your upset. What you have described is a serious criminal act," Ted Teng, executive director of The Leading Hotels of the World, wrote in an email to the man this month. "While I have no reasons to doubt your statement, please also accept that I must give the benefit of the doubt to the hotel and the employee of this alleged crime."

Grand Velas defended its “top-performing” therapist, saying he had worked at the spa for a year with no complaints and that the man from Boston did not behave in a manner consistent with someone being raped.

“He had the opportunity to terminate the massage, to leave the treatment room, which was unlocked and accessible from other rooms, to call for help, none of which he did,” a resort spokeswoman wrote in an email to the Journal Sentinel.

The resort moved the therapist to a beach-side station where his massages would be given in public, "out of an abundance of caution," the spokeswoman said.

He quit a few weeks later.

© 2017 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel


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