An East Palo Alto man who was arrested in September for sexual battery was taken into custody again after 21 women came forward to accuse him of similar crimes, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.
Bernardino Rosas Valle, 66, was allegedly running an unregulated massage-therapy business in a shed in his backyard. He was providing low-cost massage and chiropractic services to women, according to police.
Valle had been assisting clients with issues ranging from minor aches and pains to fertility enhancement out of his property on the 2200 block of Brentwood Court, police said. He claimed to have been a self-proclaimed "sobandero," or masseur for the past 30 years.
Valle was arrested for sexual battery on Sept. 3 after he allegedly fondled a victim's breasts and tried to reach into her genital area during a massage. She stopped him, left and told her daughter, who convinced her to call police, according to the DA's office. He was not prosecuted due to lack of evidence.
"It's very hard to prosecute a case where it's one-on-one, where it's a he-said, she-said," District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
But 21 victims came forward after police issued a media release, and the story was publicized through Spanish-speaking television and newspapers.
"That's just about the highest number of any case I can remember," Wagstaffe said.
The alleged assaults took place between 2006 and 2014. Ten of the women were assaulted within the statute of limitations, he said. Many of the women are East Palo Alto residents. Most are undocumented immigrants who were fearful of going to the police department, and many did not realize the inappropriate touching is a criminal offense, Wagstaffe said.
"They knew it was wrong, but they said they didn't know it was a crime until word spread through the community," he said.
Valle is charged with three counts of forcible sexual penetration with an object, a felony; nine counts of felony sexual battery, four counts of misdemeanor sexual battery and one count of felony false imprisonment.
"The difference between felony and misdemeanor sexual battery is if it is done over clothing or skin to skin," Wagstaffe added.
Valle was arrested again on Dec. 31 and appeared in San Mateo County Superior Court on Friday, Jan. 2. He was ordered to be held on $300,000 bail and remains in custody. He is scheduled to enter a plea on Jan. 8.