Stan Lee, the 95-year-old father of Marvel Comics’ most beloved superheroes like Spider-Man and the Hulk, is being accused of sexual misconduct by a massage therapist who says the comic book icon acted inappropriately with her during two separate sessions.
Maria Carballo claims she was sent to Lee’s room at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Chicago to perform a 2-hour massage on the morning of April 21, 2017, according to a complaint filed Monday in Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. The massage was scheduled by Lee’s assistant, who is also named as a defendant in the complaint.
A rep for Lee did not return PEOPLE’s request for comment.
After she massaged Lee’s back for around half an hour, Carballo claims in the complaint that the comic book creator “began to fondle himself.” Carballo, the complaint states, instructed Lee to roll onto his back “in an attempt to diffuse the situation.”
When Lee turned over, Carballo says in the complaint that she “noticed that the sheets on which [he] had been lying were wet.” She decided to disregard “her observation” and give “[Lee] the benefit of the doubt.”
The massage continued unabated for a short time until Carballo began massaging Lee’s quadriceps, at which point “Lee began to moan and groan,” according to the complaint. Observing this, Carballo says she ended the massage and left to wash her hands.
When she returned, Carballo states in her complaint that Lee “remained on the table, complaining that the massage was supposed to last two-hours.”
After conferring with Lee’s assistant, Carballo agreed to only charge for an hour session and left the room after receiving payment, the complaint states.
However, the next day, the owner of Carballo’s massage company called her three separate times asking that she return to massage Lee, according to the complaint. Carballo says she told her boss that Lee made her uncomfortable and asked that the company use another therapist. But after stressing the importance of “appeasing VIP clients” and “relaying an apology from Lee,” who assured her that there would be no further incidents, Carballo “reluctantly” consented to return “fearing that her continued refusal would cause her to lose her job,” according to the complaint.
On her way back to the room on April 22, Carballo says four security guards, the Hyatt concierge and another member of Lee’s team greeted her in the lobby, escorted her to Lee’s room and apologized on his behalf for his prior behavior, the complaint states.
But about an hour into the massage, Carballo says in the complaint that “Lee was once again moaning.” Carballo says she “immediately stopped the massage and asked Lee to put his clothes on so that she could get her belongings and go home.”
At this point, Carballo says in the complaint, “Lee stood up from the massage table, completely naked and became angry” with Carballo. She says she then “begged” him to get dressed and “let her leave,” but Lee “became and angrier and demanded” the massage continue, according to the complaint.
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“In an effort to appease Lee and in fear of retribution from her employer, [Carballo] agreed to continue the massage for another 10 minutes,” the complaint states. Carballo attempted to create “more distance between [herself and Lee]” by giving him a Shiatsu massage, which can be performed by the therapists feet instead of hands, thus “giving [her] more protection in case Lee acted inappropriately again,” the complaint states.
However, after “a few minutes,” the complaint says, “Lee grabbed [Carballo’s] foot and moved it against his penis and scrotum.”
After freeing “herself from his grip, she promptly gathered her belongings,” asked to be paid, received $240 for the massage and left the room, according to the complaint. While waiting for the elevator to the lobby, Lee’s assistant thanked her for returning to the hotel, according to the complaint, which adds that Lee’s assistant handed her “a wad of money as a tip.”
Carballo says in the complaint that she “took the money and went home.” She did not report the incident to police in fear that, “in light of Lee’s wealth and status” making a police report “would hurt her job,” according to the complaint.
She also claims that Lee’s assistant knew of his “inappropriate behavior.”
The massage therapist added the #MeToo movement inspired her “to fight for her dignity by standing up for herself.”
Citing assault, battery and other counts, Carballo is seeking a judgment “in excess of $50,000, plus an award of punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs as permitted under the statute.”
Meanwhile, controversy has recently swirled around Lee, who sued a former business manager alleging fraud and has spoken out defending his daughter after others around him claimed she was trying to gain control of his assets.