Stan Lee of Marvel Comics accused of inappropriate sexual behavior by Chicago massage therapist
A massage therapist says Stan Lee of Marvel Comics fondled himself and inappropriately grabbed her during arranged massages at a Chicago hotel in 2017, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Cook County circuit court.
The massage therapist, Maria Carballo, also filed a complaint with Chicago police on March 16, said her attorney, Alexandra Reed-Lopez. A Chicago police spokeswoman confirmed a complaint was filed that date against Lee, under his legal name, Stanley Lieber. The case is still under investigation, police said.
The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000, punitive damages and attorney fees from Lee.
“He is a high-profile public figure and I think it’s a shakedown,” said Jonathan Freund, an attorney for Lee. “The guy is 95, I don’t think he would do that.”
Freund said Lee was shocked by the allegations, which he denied. Freund said he was not aware of a criminal investigation.
The lawsuit also names Lee’s former assistant, Mac “Max” Anderson, who is accused of arranging the massages. Anderson could not be immediately reached.
Carballo was working as an independent contractor for Therapy Professionals, which asked her to give massage therapy to a client for two hours April 21, 2017, at the McCormick Place Hyatt Regency, according to her complaint. Lee was in town that weekend for C2E2, an annual comics expo.
A phone call and text message left with Therapy Professionals was not immediately returned.
When Carballo got to the Hyatt that evening, she was sent to Lee’s hotel suite, where Anderson escorted her into Lee’s bedroom and instructed her on the massage, the complaint states.
Lee was on his stomach for the first part of the massage, and after about a half hour, Carballo noticed he was fondling himself, according to the complaint.
Carballo resumed the massage until Lee allegedly started moaning and groaning when she massaged his quadriceps. She stopped the massage and washed her hands in the bathroom. The massage was supposed to last two hours, but she reached an agreement with Anderson to end it early and charge for only one hour, which he paid her for, according to the complaint.
When Therapy Professionals’ owner called Carballo the next day and asked her to give another massage to Lee, Carballo initially refused and said Lee made her feel uncomfortable, according to the complaint.
In another call, the employer told Carballo that Lee was sorry and it wouldn’t happen again, and that it was important to appease “VIP” clients, the complaint states. Afraid of losing her job, Carballo went back to the Hyatt.
About an hour into the second massage, which started about 10 p.m., Lee again started moaning when Carballo was massaging his quadriceps, the complaint alleges. She stopped the massage and asked him to put clothes back on, according to the complaint.
Instead, the complaint states, Lee got up, naked and angry, and demanded Carballo keep massaging him. She agreed to 10 more minutes, but switched to a Shiatsu method, which can be performed with feet rather than hands, to give herself more distance from Lee, the lawsuit said.
Carballo alleges in the lawsuit that Lee grabbed her foot and touched it to his penis and scrotum.
She got away, gathered her things, collected $240 cash from Lee and left, according to the complaint, which states that while Carballo was waiting for the elevator, Anderson came up and thanked her and gave her a cash tip.
Carballo told her daughter and best friend about the encounter, but feared going to police, according to the complaint.
“[Carballo] was fearful that, in light of the Lee’s wealth and status, reporting the incident to police would hurt her job,” the complaint states.
However, the “Me Too” movement empowered Carballo to come forward and “fight for her dignity by standing up for herself,” according to the complaint.
Lee is the co-creator of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor and the X-Men, placing him at the forefront of the comic book industry’s greatest figures. In recent years, Lee is known for making cameos in movies featuring Marvel characters and has been a popular figure at comic book fan conventions.
Freund said Lee “will defend his rights vigorously.”
Zak Koeske contributed to this report.
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