SPRING HILL – A licensed physical therapist who works in Spring Hill is facing a sexual battery charge after sources say he used his position at a local YMCA to target the victim.
The victim's stepfather contacted R News earlier this month to share details of what happened to his stepdaughter while she worked at the YMCA in Spring Hill. The protect the family's privacy, we will refer to the stepfather as "James."
According to James, his 17-year-old stepdaughter became acquainted with 25-year-old Halston Blake Pross, who worked as a physical therapist and personal trainer at the YMCA. James says he found disturbing messages on his stepdaughter's cell phone that confirmed Pross had been sexually assaulting her at his home in Pasco County. James immediately contacted the Hernando County Sheriff's Office and detectives began their investigation.
At the onset of the investigation, James said he was advised by detectives to petition for an order of protection from the courts on behalf of his stepdaughter. Last week, Judge Don Barbee listened to arguments from the suspect's attorney and James, but surprisingly, Judge Barbee denied the petition for protection. James says because he is not the victim's biological father, he was told he could not speak on her behalf. James says his wife and victim's mother filed a follow-up petition to try and schedule a new hearing, but a judge denied the new petition citing "insufficient evidence." Frustrated with the court's decision, James says they were forced to wait until an arrest was made to protect his stepdaughter.
On Sunday, R News learned that detectives arrested Pross and charged him with Sexual Battery on a Victim 16 or 17. Due to the explicit text messages sent by Pross, he was also charged with providing Obscene Material to a Minor. Pross was released the same day on a $10,000 bond.
According to sources, Pross was working at Ulta Beauty on Cortez Blvd in Spring Hill when he was arrested on Sunday, but that has not been confirmed. R News attempted to speak with a manager at Ulta, but she would not comment on Pross or confirm his employment status with the company. James says Pross is a "predator who chooses to work for places where young teenage girls work so that he can manipulate them into having sexual relationships."
According to James, Pross referred to himself, ironically, as a "Registered Flex Offender" in one of his recent social media posts. Since his arrest, Pross has changed all his social media settings to "private."
James tells R News that he believes other employees at the YMCA were or possibly still are using their positions to groom young teens and children at the facility. A source who claims to be a current employee at the YMCA told James in a text message, "...they have other complaints of older men that work there being abusive and grooming towards minors. So, obvious they [YMCA supervisors] are ignoring stuff." She goes on to say, "I think the Y is covering up a lot. They just fired another male staff member named Mike who was grooming girls." James says one of the employees told a young teenage girl that she should, "create an Only Fans page."
R News contacted the YMCA regarding Pross's arrest and the other allegations of inappropriate contact by staff members, and we received the following statement from a spokesperson:
We were notified by a parent that a staff member is reported to have had an inappropriate relationship with a minor staff member. As a youth-serving organization, we take all reports of inappropriate activity and abuse seriously and respond swiftly. We are cooperating fully with law enforcement and continue to be in communication with the family reporting this to provide our support. As an accredited abuse prevention organization, we have extensive policies and procedures that all staff members and volunteers must follow. We are committed to the safety and well-being of our staff and members.
The YMCA denied terminating any employee for having "inappropriate contact with minors."
R News cannot confirm if Pross is still employed with the YMCA or Ulta at this time.
R News will continue to follow this case and report on any new developments.