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Melvin Buffington appearing in court on Feb. 21, 2018.

An Omaha massage therapist who was accused of sexually assaulting at least 19 women during their massages has taken a plea deal.

Melvin Buffington has pleaded no contest to two counts of attempted first-degree sexual assault. The 63-year-old faces a maximum of 40 years in prison when sentenced in May.

In exchange for the no-contest pleas, Douglas County prosecutors dropped 21 charges, most of which were misdemeanor third-degree sexual assaults. Multiple charges were filed in connection with a couple of women.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said the women were prepared to testify but preferred a plea deal that would give the possibility of many years in prison. He said prosecutors will ask for the maximum sentence.

“It is a win for the victims. I admire their courage in making their reports and coming forward,” Kleine said. “Hopefully he’ll never have the opportunity to do anything to anyone again.”

Authorities said Buffington digitally penetrated at least two women and inappropriately touched 17 others during their massages at Oasis Massage & Spa at 689 N. 132nd St.

Buffington had worked at the business since August 2016. The earliest reported sexual assault occurred in June 2017. Women as young as 23 and as old as 58 told police about the inappropriate touching, which included touching their breasts or genitals or putting his crotch close to their faces.

One of the women told owners of the business that she was digitally penetrated by Buffington on Jan. 12, 2018. Despite the complaint, Buffington continued working at the spa. Five more women later told police that he sexually assaulted them during massages after the woman’s complaint to owners.

Two women were sexually assaulted during couples massages — one husband was an Omaha police officer.

At least five women have filed lawsuits against the company, alleging that owners failed to run a background check on Buffington or have safeguards in place to address complaints.

Alia Conley covers breaking news, crime, crime trends, the Omaha Police Department and initial court hearings. Follow her on Twitter @aliavalentine. Phone: 402-444-1068.

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