EAST PALO ALTO, Calif. (KTVU) - Police in East Palo Alto are concerned there may be more victims, after three women came forward claiming their massage therapist had sexually assaulted them. Police arrested 55-year-old Jose Plascencia, who's out on bail. He did not have a business license or permit.
“He just seemed like an ideal neighbor that you would love to have,” said Neighbor Opal Harper.
Harper said she would see people come and go at her neighbor's home all hours of the day but had no idea he was working as a masseuse. On Monday, she learned of the troubling allegations he may have sexually assaulted his clients.
“I am appalled,” said Harper. “I never thought of anything like that.”
East Palo Alto Police said Plascencia ran an unregulated massage business at his home on Illinois Street converting the garage into two "treatment" rooms. Police said people with minor ailments would see him. The business didn't advertise but relied on recommendations.
“This is not a unique service for Latinos to partake in and go to for healing,” said Commander Jeff Liu of East Palo Alto Police. “It's a very culturally popular way of getting healed.”
Police said three female clients, all East Palo Alto residents, came forward last month alleging the self-proclaimed masseuse assaulted them during their sessions. Police would not say when the assaults happened, only that it was recent. Police arrested Plascencia last Thursday.
“It’s super scary to know that there are people like this in the neighborhood,” said Neighbor Carmen Ayala.
“There are very few cases that are more severe and I don't think there's any case that scars you more than getting sexually assaulted,” said Commander Liu.
Police said they had a similar case back in 2014, where a masseuse operating in the same fashion was arrested for sexual battery charges. News of that arrest led to dozens of victims coming forward.
“If he's seen a good number of clients I think the odds are that this is not the only three people that it happened to,” said Commander Liu.
On Monday, the home was red-tagged. City of Palo Alto is cracking down on houses that convert garages illegally. Police are offering the victims counseling services and ask if anyone has additional information to contact them at (650) 853-3160.