O.C. Man Accused of Sexually Assaulting Massage Envy Clients, Raping Woman He Was Caregiver For

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A Mission Viejo man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of sexually assaulting multiple woman while working at a local Massage Envy and raping a senior citizen while serving as her caregiver, deputies said.

Russell Bernardino, 43, has been a "licensed massage therapist" for about three years and has worked at several massage parlors, and investigators think he could have other victims, Orange County sheriff's officials said in a news release.

Russell Bernardino is seen in a booking photo released July 17, 2019, by the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Russell Bernardino is seen in a booking photo released July 17, 2019, by the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

In the three cases he's been tied to, he's accused of rape, elder sexual abuse, oral copulation and sexual battery.

Detectives launched a probe in April after a 36-year-old woman reported Bernardino sexually assaulted her while she was getting a massage at Massage Envy's Mission Viejo location. Two months later, a 71-year-old woman told authorities Bernardino also sexually assaulted her at the chain's location at 27620 Marguerite Parkway.

In late 2017, the massage chain responded to a rash of more than 180 sex assaults reported at its national franchises revealed by a BuzzFeed News investigation, saying it would roll out reforms.

Last month, a 29-year-old man who works at a Massage Envy in Ventura was charged with sexually abusing a client there just a week after he was hired. Anthony Wearing is facing charges of felony forcible digital penetration and sexual battery by restraint.

Massage Envy is fighting multiple lawsuits over the claims, according to BuzzFeed.

In a statement, the company said it does not comment on pending litigation and it is “committed to promoting a safe environment.”

Investigators told KTLA Bernardino no longer works at Massage Envy and his massage therapist certificate was suspended about two weeks ago. Though the Sheriff's Department described Bernardino as having a "license" for massage therapy, the state only offers a voluntary certificate, not a license.

State records from the California Massage Therapy Council, which certifies massage therapists, list Bernardino as "suspended." His certification was set to expire July 19.

Bernardino is also accused of raping a 77-year-old woman for whom he was working as a caregiver at her home in Laguna Woods.

The suspect has been a "licensed home health care provider" for around two years and was employed by West Coast Care in Orange from 2017 to 2018, authorities said. Detectives are unsure whether he worked for other home health care companies in the area.

No records could be found in Bernardino's name on the state's website for verifying home health aide certification. There is no "license" in California to be a home health aide.

Bernardino was arrested around 8 a.m. Wednesday at his Mission Viejo home and was being held on $100,000 bail, officials said.

Anyone with information on possible additional victims can contact the O.C. Sheriff’s Department at 714-647-7419, or submit an anonymous tip via 855-847-6227 or occrimestoppers.org.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Bernardino as having a type of license that the Sheriff's Department did not say he had, and it gave an incorrect name for the state board that verifies such licenses. Additionally, it clarifies that both massage therapists and home health aides are certified in California; they do not have "licenses," as described by the Sheriff's Department. The story has been updated.

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