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Staff member at Pinellas Park mental health center charged with molesting patients

PINELLAS PARK — A staff member with a mental health services agency has been arrested on charges including sexual battery in connection with offenses involving three adult patients, Pinellas Park police said.

Nicholai Anthony Brief, 34, who worked with the non-profit Personal Enrichment Through Mental Health Services, was booked into jail about 1:40 a.m. Friday on one count of sexual battery and three counts of lewd or lascivious molestation in the presence of an elderly person.

Brief “was in a position of trust or authority” over the three victims through his work with PEMHS, 11254 58th St. N in Pinellas Park, according to a news release from Pinellas Park police.

PEMHS is a $14.7 million-a-year operation that relies largely on contracts with government agencies including the Pinellas County Commission and the Juvenile Welfare Board, according to its latest federal tax filings.

Police began investigating after receiving a report that a staff member had engaged in non-consensual sexual activity with a number of patients, according to the release.

Arrest affidavits give this account of the incidents:

At 9 p.m. Oct. 10, Brief entered a patient’s room and grabbed her breasts. He denied the allegation in an interview with investigators, but admitted asking to see the patient’s breasts via Facebook Messenger. At 8 p.m. the next night, Brief asked a patient via Facebook Messenger if he could fondle her and if she would send him explicit photos of her.

In another incident, around 11 p.m. Jan. 2, Brief was admitting a patient into the PEMHS center when he grabbed her by the arm, forced her into a dark room, shoved her against a wall and groped her, according to an affidavit. He did not speak during the incident, the victim told authorities.

Finally, around 11 p.m. Feb. 14, Brief grabbed a patient’s breasts while she slept, according to an affidavit, then said, “You’re not going to tell anyone are you” as she pulled away.

The affidavits, dated Thursday, describe Brief as a “tech” at PEMHS but list his current occupation as unemployed.

Brief was taken into custody at his home, 5500 40th St. N in St. Petersburg, and was being held in lieu of $25,000 bail at the Pinellas County jail.

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