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California Massage Therapist Arrested For Raping 77-Year-Old Client

Photo: Orange County Sheriff’s Department
Who Is Russell Bernardino? New Details On California Massage Therapist Arrested For Raping 77-Year-Old Client

When we treat ourselves to a massage, we expect the ultimate relaxation. We may suffer from joint issues or are just overworking our bodies, and the hour we spend laying down is meant to heal our minds as well. But for at least three women in California, their massage experience turned into a nightmare. 

Who is Russell Bernardino? The 43-year-old massage therapist has been charged with the rape of a 77-year-old woman while serving as her in-home caregiver. He’s also accused of sexually assaulting two other women while giving massages, hired as a masseuse. 

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The Orange County Sheriff’s Special Victims Department arrested Bernardino on July 17th, and he faces four misdemeanor counts of sexual battery, one felony count of sexual penetration by foreign object and force, and one felony count of forcible rape. He’s currently being held on $100,000 bail and faces up to 21 years in prison.

For three years, Bernardino worked as a licensed massage therapist at Massage Envy as well as other businesses.

In April this year, a 36-year-old woman reported her alleged sexual assault while receiving a massage and just one month later, a 71-year-old woman claimed she, too, had been sexual assaulted at Massage Envy by Bernardino. In March 2018, a 77-year-old woman claims he raped her while providing her in-home health care.

Authorities believe he may have other victims who have not yet come forward, and as a result, circulated his photo on social media. 

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Said Sgt. Joses Walehwa, “Clients of his at Massage Envy that were getting massages done and at some point during both those events, he committed some sort of sexual assault. One of our biggest concerns is that he had access to additional clients. So a big reason we’re out here today is we’re trying to get the information, get his picture out.”

From 2017 throughout 2018, Bernardino worked for West Coast Care, and may have worked for other companies. On July 18, he appeared in court, standing quietly in the holding cell in the courtroom. His arraignment has been postponed until next month.

This isn’t the first time Massage Envy has come under fire for sexual assault allegations.

A BuzzFeed News investigation found more than 180 women had been sexually assaulted at the business. The company said it would reform its policies to better protect customers, but haven’t spoken directly on a case-to-case basis. 

In a statement, the company said, “Massage Envy is committed to promoting a safe environment for members, guests and service providers at each of our nearly 1,200 franchise locations nationwide. We urge anyone that experiences anything other than a safe, quality massage to report it immediately to the franchise location so that it can be investigated.”

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Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who focuses on writing trending news and entertainment pieces. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.