Jamaica: Sandals denies reports of covered up sexual assaults and paid victims

(Jamaica Observer) Sandals Resorts has strongly denied allegations that it was covering up allegations of sexual assault on two American female guests and said it stands ready to “vigorously defend itself in court” against the case that is now a subject of litigation.

“Recent allegations of cover-ups by our organisation are false and are gross misrepresentations of not only the facts but who we are and what we stand for as a leader in the industry,” Sandals said in a statement yesterday.

“One of the core values of our company is exceeding guest expectations, and with that comes operating in full transparency. We are a family-operated enterprise that cares deeply about each and every guest we welcome into our resort home,” added Sandals, one of the companies in the ATL Group which includes this newspaper.

The resort company was responding to a report aired on ABC’s Good Morning America yesterday on claims made by professional make-up artist Melissa Blayton, and couple Jeff and Ashley Pascarella.

Blayton, who was a guest at a Sandals property in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, in 2017 said that one of the hotel’s employees, who offered her a solo sailing lesson, had sexually assaulted her.

She told ABC that after she was taken back to shore, on her demand, she spent the next few days holed up in her room crying.

She said that the butler assigned to her room noticed her crying and advised her to talk to the hotel manager.

Yesterday, in response to Blayton’s claims, Sandals said “There are many details missing from her story, including her interactions with resort team members, her requests regarding law enforcement involvement, and her subsequent requests of the resort after her departure.

“Further, it was surprising to hear about Ms Blayton’s allegations, since we have been in contact with her multiple times over the last few months and she has indicated plans for a return visit to Sandals Resorts in 2019. We look forward to having her back.”

Yesterday evening, in an interview with Cliff Hughes and Tyrone Reid on Nationwide@Five, Blayton said that she would “never, ever return to a Sandals resort”.

When Hughes asked her to respond to Sandals’ statement that the company had been in touch with her multiple times over the last few months, and that she had indicated plans for a return visit, Blayton said she had received a voucher from Sandals offering her a return visit but she had “only one year” to use it. She said that she e-mailed the resort company in September saying that she was not, at that time, certain that she wanted to use the voucher; however, she was requesting an extension “in case I should choose to use it in the future”.

However, she said that when the Pascarellas’ story was published in November she decided against utilising the voucher.

Last night, when the Jamaica Observer called Sandals for a comment, a company spokesman said that the individual accused by Blayton was “terminated for breaching the company’s very clear safety and security protocols as well as the fraternisation policy as Ms Blayton’s business card was found in his possession”.

In the Pascarellas’ case ABC reported that the couple, who had gone to Sandals Royal Bahamian to get married in 2016, alleged that the butler assigned to their room sexually assaulted the bride the night before her wedding.

Yesterday, Sandals, in its statement, said “In reference to Mrs Pascarella, these allegations present a self-serving, one-sided and incomplete version of an incident reported in 2016. The plaintiffs have unfortunately embarked to influence the case based on their one-sided narrative in the media. Sandals intends to vigorously defend itself in court against these one-sided allegations and looks forward to presenting the full picture of all the facts and circumstances surrounding this reported incident from 2016 within the appropriate legal forum.”

The Pascarellas’ lawyer, John Nicholas Iannuzzi, was also interviewed by Hughes and Reid on Nationwide@Five.

He said that his clients, who are seeking US$30 million, have filed legal action in the New York Supreme Court.

When asked if Sandals has been served in the matter, Iannuzzi said, “That’s in the process of happening”.

The Sandals statement said further: “While no guest should ever experience what these women allege to have happened, the story on ABC’s Good Morning Americadid not include important and pertinent information about both cases, much of which we can’t disclose due to pending litigation.

“Since our inception in 1981, we’ve had the distinct privilege of welcoming well over 10 million valued guests across our 24 resorts around the Caribbean. We are proud to lead the industry with the highest guest return rate of any resort company in the western hemisphere and know that it has a direct relation to the safe and enjoyable environment that we have provided for over three decades.

“Our strict security protocols, infrastructure technology and collaboration with international law enforcement and government resources ensure we are among the safest resorts operating in the Caribbean. We follow strict protocols and continue to evolve our policies.”

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