Middlebury masseur accused of voyeurism

MIDDLEBURY — A Middlebury masseur on Monday pleaded innocent in Addison Superior Court, criminal division, to four counts of voyeurism, stemming from accusations that he secretly videotaped four female customers using a hidden camera at his business at 31 Court St.
Roger A. Schmidt, 56, of Middlebury was released on several conditions following his arraignment at the Frank Mahady Courthouse. Those conditions included that he not give massages, not use any cameras or recording devices and that he not go where children congregate. Addison Superior Court Judge Helen Toor granted an exception that he be allowed to go to two Addison County elementary schools, after school hours, to play volleyball.
Police said Schmidt could face more charges pending further scrutiny of evidence in the case. Preliminary forensic evaluation of the evidence by Officer Josh Otey of the Bristol Police Department has yielded 70 digital video and still image files that appear to have been taken without consent or knowledge of the customers involved.
The four alleged voyeurism cases for which Schmidt has been charged allegedly took place during the past 13 months, according to police. Middlebury police launched their investigation on April 6, when a woman reported she believed she had been videotaped while undressed during an April 1 visit to Roger’s Relaxing Massage Therapy LLC.
Middlebury Police Det. Kris Bowdish interviewed that victim on April 6. The victim reported visiting Schmidt to get relief from a sore back. While in the changing room, she noted two mirrors on the wall that “seemed out of place” because they were placed so low to the ground, according to court records.
At the end of the massage, the woman said she heard a noise she traced to a “black USB charger” plugged into an outlet, according to Bowdish’s court affidavit.
“I immediately thought the charger was a hidden camera type of charging device,” the woman told police, as she had had experience with such equipment in the past for home security purposes, according to court records.
“I looked at the USB charger and could clearly see the circle on the front where the camera was,” the woman told investigators. “There was a slot to plug in a USB cable below the camera.”
The victim said she became “scared” and “uncomfortable” with the notion that her privacy might have been violated, to the extent she quickly covered her private areas with her hands and dressed very quickly, according to court records.
The woman said she returned later that day to Schmidt’s business saying she believed she had left a piece of jewelry in the dressing room, according to Bowdish’s affidavit. While there, she told authorities she noticed the USB device had been removed from the wall.
“Roger was acting weird and kind of blocking me from looking around anywhere other than where I had set down my clothes,” the victim told police.
Bowdish on April 10 obtained search warrants for Schmidt’s home, his business and his vehicle, according to court records. While executing the warrant at Schmidt’s business, Bowdish asked him if he had a USB device containing a hidden camera, to which he replied he had such a charger but “was not sure if it had a camera in it,” according to court records.
Items seized from Schmidt’s property on April 10 included an Apple iPad, a Lenovo ThinkPad computer, five USB drives of varying sizes, a Digital Spy Pen hidden camera and a cell phone, according to Bowdish’s affidavit.
Bowdish said she confirmed the USB charger seized from the business included a hidden camera. She stated in her affidavit the search yielded two other USB/hidden camera devices in a closet in the massage room, according to court records.
During an interview with Bowdish, Schmidt allegedly said he had purchased the “cheap” USB chargers not knowing they had cameras in them, according to court records.
“I guess maybe I did unknowingly record people inside my massage room if you are telling me the USB charger has a camera in it,” Schmidt allegedly told Bowdish, according to her affidavit.
“I have no idea how it works or how you turn it on or off,” he allegedly told police.
Court records indicate Schmidt later acknowledged, “I guess I started recording people around a year ago; I’m not sure how many people I recorded.”
He is alleged to have told police he considered taking photos of his new clients with his iPad so he could better remember them, but never followed through.
“I don’t know why I decided to use a hidden camera instead,” he allegedly told police, according to court records.
Schmidt also told police that “most of the recordings I made were of women preparing for their massage. Sometimes I would record the massage, but not always,” according to court records.
A search of Schmidt’s Lenovo computer, according to authorities, revealed 70 video and picture files.
“We previewed most of the files and found them to contain videos of massage clients in (Schmidt’s) massage room at 31 Court St.,” Bowdish wrote in her affidavit. “The videos showed the clients either getting dressed at the end of a massage, or getting undressed prior to a massage.”
Bowdish also noted images of women clients reflected in the two wall mirrors in the massage office’s changing area, prompting her to theorize “the mirrors had been hung at their location for this specific purpose,” according to court records.
Police said they found four computer files with names included in their labels. Each file contained a video of a female massage client in a state of undress, according to court records.
Bowdish found and interviewed the women depicted in those four computer files, according to court records. All were very upset, and several cried, upon hearing the news they had been videotaped, according to Bowdish.
Police continue to study evidence in the case and anyone who was a customer at Rogers Relaxing Massage Therapy LLC may call Middlebury police at 388-3191 if they are concerned.
A conviction on each of the misdemeanor voyeurism charges carries a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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