A San Diego woman says she was sexually assaulted by a massage therapist at a world-class spa and resort in Del Mar and the resort’s management did nothing to prevent it.
The woman’s attorney told NBC 7 that the massage therapist has since pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and is no longer a licensed massage therapist.
The woman, known only as Jane Doe, sued the L’Auberge Del Mar and the resort’s former managing company, Hyatt, in San Diego Superior Court on Jan. 30. Also named in the lawsuit was Daniel Iorga, the massage therapist who pleaded guilty to the assault.
“I don’t understand how a hotel that holds themselves in such high regard can act so callously,” said the victim.
The San Diego woman says she stayed at the resort in Dec. 2018 and booked a massage that same evening.
The woman told NBC 7 that shortly after the massage began, she felt therapist Iorga’s hand begin to wander.
“There was no doubt in my mind about what he was trying to do,” she said.
As he kneaded her neck and upper back with one arm, he penetrated the woman with his other hand. She said she laid on the table petrified.
Moments later she said Iorga moved the sheet that was covering her lower back and climbed onto her.
“He put his knees on the backs of my thighs...and moved my underwear to the side and licked me. I was terrified that he was going to rape me but I couldn’t move or say anything," she said.
Iorga eventually stopped, he allegedly sat her up and whispered in her ear.
“He whispered, ‘promise me you will never regret this good massage.’ That, I’ll never forget,” she said.
The woman said she left and went back to her room. After regaining her composure, she went to the hotel desk and asked to speak to a manager. When the manager did not come, she called the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and filed a report.
“This changed me tremendously,” said the woman. “I used to think that I was strong and I just feel like I couldn’t help myself and...it’s been really hard to reconcile that.”
Upon meeting with sheriff’s deputies, the woman learned that Iorga had been accused of assaulting another client in 2013 while he worked at the Hotel Del Coronado. Iorga had not been charged with a crime but a report had been made.
"I think that police need to pay more attention to these types of cases and actually investigate them and document them," said the woman’s attorney, Dan Gilleon. "Even if the district attorney doesn’t go after the therapist the first time as long as it is documented the district attorney might go after them a second time cause we know it is going to happen again."
Gilleon told NBC 7 that another massage therapist had been accused of sexually assaulting a client at L’Auberge Del Mar in 2017, only 17 months prior to his client’s assault.
Carl Hershman is a retired police detective for San Diego’s Sex Crimes Unit. Hershman says that he investigated dozens of alleged assaults by massage therapists as a detective.
“I was assigned between 60 to 75 cases involving sexual battery or sexual assault by a massage therapist,” said Hershman. “These types of cases were very common throughout San Diego County and also across the nation.”
“There’s virtually no evidence as to what happened,” said Hershman. “These cases fall into what some people call a ‘He said, she said’ case. These types of cases rarely have forensic or physical evidence. It comes down to one person’s word against another’s.”
NBC 7 Investigates reached out to Daniel Iorga, who runs a Martial Arts studio in San Diego. In a statement, Iorga told NBC 7, "I apologize for this. I am very sorry. I don't have any more to say."
In April 2019, the District Attorney’s Office filed misdemeanor sexual battery charges against Iorga. According to Gilleon, Iorga was offered a plea deal, where he plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of battery. The deal will include a sentence of three years of probation, along with mandatory community service and sexual counseling classes.
L’Auberge Del Mar’s current managing company, Noble House Hotels & Resorts told NBC 7 they could not comment due to the incident having occurred before they managed the resort. The resort’s previous managing company, Hyatt, did not comment citing pending litigation.
“I want the hotel to be accountable for this type of thing,” the victim says. “Because if they are not going to be, then I don’t know who else is.”