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Massage therapist facing sexual battery charge has history of complaints

Ronald Bruinius has been licensed since 2011.

Ronald Bruinius has been licensed since 2011.

A massage therapist accused of inappropriately touching a client last year has a history of similar allegations.

Records released to the Tampa Bay Times show that since 2012, Ronald D. Bruinius, 36, of Seminole has been investigated twice by Clearwater police. In one case, a client reported Bruinius groped her during a massage. In another, he was accused of abusing a severely disabled man.

Yet another allegation reported in March remains under investigation by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Details of that case were not released because it remains active.

The Sheriff's Office would like to hear from anyone else who feels they may have been victimized by Bruinius.

In 2011, Bruinius received his massage therapy license, state records show.

The following year, he was working for Massage Envy at 2516 McMullen-Booth Road in Clearwater. It was unclear when he began working at the spa because the owner did not return a call for comment.

On Sept. 6, 2012, a 29-year-old woman came in for a massage, conducted by Bruinius. During the final moments of the 90-minute session, Bruinius allegedly groped the woman, who later told detectives she didn't object right away because "she felt stuck at the moment," according to police records.

After leaving the spa, she called Clearwater police.

Detectives forwarded their investigation to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, but prosecutors concluded that the victim consented to the inappropriate touching because she didn't protest when it began. Bruinius had also asked her several times during the massage if she was comfortable. The woman also gave inconsistent accounts to a friend and later to police.

"The defendant did not threaten her in any manner, or use any type of physical force consistent with a sexual battery," court records state.

Prosecutors declined to file charges in November 2012, but records show Bruinius may have violated spa policy because the woman was not wearing a towel during the massage.

According to state records, Bruinius was also a certified nursing assistant. (His license expired in December). In January 2013, he became a caretaker for a 62-year-old man diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy who could not move on his own.

Within two weeks, Bruinius and his patient became "physically affectionate," exchanging hugs and kisses on the mouth at the patient's Clearwater home, according to police reports.

The affection escalated to consented groping. Bruinius' patient "welcomed the attention since he never had any kind of physical contact with someone due to his condition," a report reads.

But when the man asked if they could commence a relationship, Bruinius rejected him. Still, the fondling continued, despite the man's demands that Bruinius stop, according to police records.

After an initial police interview, the victim declined to pursue charges.

Another case would open months later.

A 53-year-old woman purchased a "Groupon" online deal for five sessions at Ronnie's Body Work Massage, which Bruinius opened in November 2012 at 10671 104th Ave. N in unincorporated Largo, according to the business' Facebook page.

During the woman's third visit, Bruinius inappropriately touched her, the Sheriff's Office said, but since the touch lasted only a moment, the woman assumed it was a mistake.

On July 24 during the final massage session, however, Bruinius fondled her again, according to the Sheriff's Office. This time, she ended the session and called authorities.

On Dec. 9, Bruinius was arrested on a sexual battery charge in that case. His attorney, Nina Hayden, declined to comment for this story.

Bruinius remains at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $30,000 bail.

Times staff researcher Natalie A. Watson contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at lmorel@tampabay.com or (727)445-4157.

Search for victims

Authorities say there may be more victims in the Ronald Bruinius case. Anyone with information is asked to call the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office at (727) 582-6200.

Massage therapist facing sexual battery charge has history of complaints 01/18/14 [Last modified: Saturday, January 18, 2014 8:28pm]
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