It turns out a massage therapist accused of sexually assaulting a client wasn't a licensed therapist at all. Now, the business where he worked may be the target of an investigation.
Jasmine Drawhorn said she's known her roommate Augustus "Gus" Ogiste, 24, of Murfreesboro, for about eight months.
"Honestly, I didn't believe it," Drawhorn said. "He's never came off that way to me. I wouldn't image he would do something like that in a workplace."
Murfreesboro police sex crimes detectives arrested Ogiste on Tuesday on charges of sexual battery and impersonating a licensed professional after he was accused of inappropriately touching a woman during a massage at Truu Bluu Salon and Spa on NW Broad Street.
The 21-year-old woman had booked a massage there after finding a Groupon online and claimed when she tried to get up or move, Ogiste would hold her down.
The victim filed a report on March 1, but it took police two-and-a-half weeks to track Ogiste down, because they said the owners of Truu Bluu were not too helpful.
"Anytime you have someone impersonating a licensed professional - and in this case, the business didn't seem to know or care that he was unlicensed and was difficult and uncooperative with the investigation - it certainly raises red flags with us that there could be other illegal activity going on," said Murfreesboro police spokesman Sgt. Kyle Evans. "We have referred this case to the Tennessee Department of Health."
Ogiste is a student at the Georgia Career Institute on Commerce Park and was days away from graduating.
Joyce Meadows, owner of the institute, released an email statement to Channel 4 News:
"No students are permitted to practice massage therapy outside of supervised educational clinics prior to testing and licensure, and all students are made aware of this throughout their training. Students do not 'acquire a license' upon graduation from a program of massage therapy. First, they must pass a state approved, national licensing examination such as MBLEX or the NCTMB examination and then apply for a state license. These things do not happen simultaneously or immediately upon graduation, and sometimes may take weeks or months to achieve. Unless Mr. Ogiste is found guilty of either charge, The Institute will treat him as innocent. If it is proven that he is guilty of attempting to practice massage therapy without a license, he will not be permitted to complete his program. Nor will he be permitted to obtain a license in Tennessee with a felony conviction."
Customer Tony Robinson said he also found a discounted online coupon and came to Truu Bluu Wednesday only to find the place closed. After hearing about what allegedly happened, he said he's changed his mind about coming back.
"I don't think I will be a potential customer," Robinson said. "It's kind of scary, places like this. You never know, most of them seem to be legit. You can't be too careful."
Woody McMillin, communications director for the Tennessee Department of Health, which regulates massage clinics, said working without a massage therapist license is just as bad as a doctor or lawyer practicing without proper certification.
"The state health department can't talk specifics about this case but will assist police with bringing charges against anyone working as a massage therapist without a license," McMillin said.
Ogiste remains in the Rutherford County Jail on $6,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court April 18.
The health department has a series of tips and reminders for customers of massage clinics:
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