Several female pet business owners share similar stories of trial and error and sexual harassment by Illinois Agriculture Inspector Jose Guillen

CHICAGO (CBS) –Illinois State Inspector Jose Guillen was caught on camera groping a dog day care owner in Bucktown, and he was fired after our report of the incidents was released last month.

Since we broke the story, several other female business owners have filed similar complaints of sexual abuse during their inspections.

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CBS 2 investigator Megan Hickey asked what her bosses at the Illinois Department of Agriculture knew – and when.

The three women cited in the next few paragraphs are complete strangers – now tied together by one person.

“Why is he noticing me? He’s a government employee. And in my head I started to go, oh my God, did he touch me? said Magda Szymczyk of Gypsy Cats NFP Inc. Feline Sanctuary.

“He’s a predator and it doesn’t matter,” said Bonnie Bloom of the Lucky Dog Pet Service. “You know, you go into this denial mode – ‘No, that didn’t happen.'”

“Then he starts to put his hand on my shoulder, on my arm, on my back.” I did not know what to do. I was just like, let it happen and be it over, ”said Leah Bindig, owner of Aeslin Pup Hub and the subject of our first story on Guillen.

The similarities in the women’s stories were striking, shocking, and incomprehensible – because they don’t talk about being a bad date. All of their businesses were inspected by the Illinois Department of Agriculture when they had these experiences.

About 70 cats and kittens from the Chicagoland region depend on Szymczyk in his feline sanctuary.

“Once you see that first little face staring at you, it’s hard to look away for the rest,” she said.

Its cat sanctuary relies on grants, which require an annual inspection from the state’s Department of Agriculture. The only inspector working in Cook County for that department until last month was Guillen.

Bloom relies on the same inspections at his Northwest Side dog day care center. She said Guillen was “the only game in town,” and she got to know him.

The same goes for the owner of animal rescue “Kate”.

“I knew it was wrong, but he had all the power,” Kate said. “He was checking whether or not I got the license.”

And then there’s Bindig, the first business owner to come forward. Our investigation last month revealed surveillance footage of his Bucktown dog day care center, where Guillen was filmed repeatedly inspecting more than his business in 2019.

He was seen touching her against her will – shoulders, back, hindquarters – and pressing himself into her while holding the results of his inspection over her.

A few days after broadcasting his story, Guillien was fired. The Ministry of Agriculture would not say why.

Szymczyk’s state inspection is the most recent among the women who showed up at CBS 2. She said when she first met Guillen that he seemed “very nice” and “very kind.”

Szymczyk: “And then he put his hand on the top of my back, and that when my head started to say, OK, did I move the wrong way? What’s going on? “

Lollipop: “That’s when you started justifying yourself in your head, what did I do wrong?” “

Szymczyk: “Right.”

Szymczyk immediately knew something was wrong with Guillen, who she said stroked her on several occasions and commented on her figure throughout her inspection in March.

“He shook my hand and pulled me in, then the hand came from the middle of my back,” Szymczyk said.

Bloom had already met Guillen several times. But it wasn’t until her last inspection in 2019 that she said things crossed the line.

“I thought he was going to shake my hand… and he pulled me, he hugged me – and the next thing I knew, there was a hand on my butt”, a- she declared.

Kate agreed to speak anonymously because she is a retired Chicago police officer who has had a long career investigating sex crimes. His colleagues at CPD are currently investigating Guillen.

After three decades of working with victims, she now identifies as such.

Kate: “He kissed me once, then texted me saying it was the sweetest kiss ever.”

Lollipop: “What’s going through your head as he kisses you on the lips?” ”

Kate: “How dirty I feel. How could he do that? He’s a state inspector.

Their experiences are almost identical to Bindig’s. But they didn’t know there were any more – until they saw the video of Guillen on CBS 2 doing the same to Bindig that they say he did to them.

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“Oh my God – it was just, it was reliving it,” Bloom said. “It’s really, I mean, he’s got, I guess, a science to him.”

“When he touched Leah and the hand came down, all the hair on my neck stood up,” Szymczyk said.

“Now that just lifted it all up,” Kate added. “It all came out and it’s like, ‘Oh wow.'”

And these weren’t the only women who shared their complaints with us – just the ones who were willing to talk about their experiences on television.

A dog rescue owner said she was groped during an inspection in 2014 – the year Guillen started her job.

We tried in vain to get Guillen’s point of view. But the address listed in court records where he received federal court documents just a few weeks ago doesn’t even appear to be occupied anymore. There was no furniture in the house when Hickey stopped and knocked on the door.

And even though Guillen is no longer working, the women we spoke with now all have the same question for the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Flowering: “What did they know, when did they know? “

Lollipop: “That’s what you want to know.”

Flowering: “Yeah, because if he’s been doing it for so long, someone must have called them.”

Someone did.

CBS 2 investigators discovered a trail of reporting. Bindig filed police reports for criminal sexual abuse with Chicago Police in March.

And according to an email we obtained dated May 10, the deputy attorney general of the state Department of Agriculture was aware of the police reports and “very serious and worrying descriptions of employee behavior.” of the ministry ”.

Still, Guillen stayed on the street – and visited Szymczyk twice after sending this email.

“I came here to put it out, and he came back behind me, leaning in the same way,” Szymczyk said, “not his whole body, but half of his body against half of mine, and leaning forward. “

She said Guillen even started showing up unexpectedly to “check in” at her house, having already passed the inspection. It’s an act other women have also reported to Hickey.

“I’m here on my own,” Szymczyk said. “I am a single woman and I am not comfortable with him who has just arrived here.”

Szymczyk called the Ministry of Agriculture. An employee responded with a voicemail message – basically saying that everything was fine.

“Inspectors can inspect at any time,” the employee said in voicemail. “They don’t need to have a date.”

Why was Guillen not put into administrative service as soon as the ministry was informed of the complaints? Why was he allowed to continue inspecting businesses – many of them in women’s homes – alone?

Hickey posed these questions to the Department of Agriculture. On Wednesday evening, the department released this statement – which concerned only Bindig’s case and none of Guillen’s interactions with other women:

“After learning of the allegations, the Illinois Department of Agriculture took action and prevented the employee in question from contacting the owner of the business. The department continues to work closely with the Chicago Police Department. “

Women who spoke to Hickey said they got no response from the ministry.

“Even with a complaint, why haven’t they taken it off? Kate said. “Why didn’t they put him in an administrative post so he wouldn’t deal with the public?” “

This case is far from over. There is always the looming issue of criminal charges.

But in the meantime, these business owners, who work hard for the animals they love and protect, have said they are done with shame and fear.

“Because there should be justice in this matter,” Bloom said. “Something, something has to be done.”

“Do I have to show this to ‘succeed’ and run my business that I have worked so hard for? Said Bindig.

“Enough is enough,” Szymczyk added. “I shouldn’t have to do this to be successful in my business.”

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Chicago Police told us they are still actively investigating criminal complaints against Guillen. Other victims have now filed additional reports with the ministry.