Psych Crime Reporter

December 23, 2010

Kaiser-Permanente psychiatrist under police and board investigations for child porn

Filed under: child pornography,psychiatrist — Psych Crime Reporter @ 9:40 pm
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On November 24, 2010 the Medical Board of California issued an Accusation against psychiatrist Mark B. Zweifach for “general unprofessional conduct.”

Zweifach agreed to the voluntary suspension of his license on September 16, 2008.  According to the Board’s Accusation, “In or about July, August and September 2007, [Zweifach], a physicians with Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, California, used his Kaiser Permanente assigned computer in his office in the Kaiser Permanente Bostonia Medical Office building, located in El Cajon, California, to access suspected child pornography websites on the internet. When confronted by Kaiser Permanente investigators, [Zweifach] admitted accessing the websites at work, and further admitted an addiction to internet pornography.”

According to the Board’s Stipulation for Voluntary Suspension of License, investigations are currently pending against Zweifach by both the Board and the San Diego Police Department.

Source: Stipulation for Voluntary Suspension of License and Accusation in the Matter of the Investigation Against Mark Zweifach, M.D., Physician and Surgeon’s Certificate No. G48626, Case No. 10-07-188130, Medical Board of California.


December 17, 2010

California psychologist Robert “Dr. Bob” Weathers surrenders license; engaged in sex with former patient

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 7:53 pm
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On February 24, 2010 the California Department of Consumer Affairs Board of Psychology accepted the surrender of Robert Stanley Weathers, Ph.D.’s license to practice psychology.

According to the Board’s Accusation and Stipulated Surrender of License and Order, Weathers engaged in a sexual relationship with a former patient he later married and subsequently abandoned.

The Accusation states that between November 1, 2002 and December 10, 2002, “S.W.,” a female, was an in-patient at the Passages drug rehabilitation facility in Malibu, California, receiving treatment for her cocaine use.  Weathers was her primary therapist and met with her twice a week for therapy.

S.W. developed a crush on Weathers early in her therapy.  He became aware of this when another female patient told him that S.W. liked him.

After Weathers learned of S.W.’s attraction, their next therapy session was on the beach, where he told her he was aware of her attraction.  The document states that he told her they could not begin a romantic relationship for two years (without risking disciplinary action against his license).

He told her he had been romantically involved with a graduate student while he was a professor at Pepperdine University.  He ended up leaving her and she reported their relationship to the Dean, who subsequently asked for Weathers’ resignation.  Weathers lost his professorship and tenure as a result of the relationship.

S.W. completed her treatment at Passages and went home to New Hampshire.  Soon after, they began to correspond via e-mail.  Their friendly exchanges continued until February 2003, when the messages became more intimate.  Soon after, she flew back to California where they visited.  Sexual intercourse ensued.  This was only two months after the conclusion of the patient-therapist relationship.

In December 2003, Weathers resigned from Passages, relocated to New Hampshire and moved in with S.W. and her children.  They were engaged on February 14, 2005 and married February 14, 2006.  During the entire period, Weathers engaged in sexual intercourse with S.W.

“…he had been romantically involved with a graduate student while he was a professor at Pepperdine University [and] lost his professorship and tenure as a result of the relationship.”

In October 2006, Weathers flew to California to work at Passages for a week and had what S.W. described as a “meltdown,” after which he told S.W. he really wanted to move back to California.  Weathers left S.W. in January 2007.

Later that year, they talked about getting back together.  S.W. had arranged for them to attend some sort of marriage therapy in Seattle, Washington.  Weathers told her that he would attend the therapy but then backed out.

Weathers is currently an unlicensed “<a href=””>life coach</a>” in Malibu, California, where he specializes in, among other things, “couples communication” and “rehab aftercare.”

<em>Source: Accusation and Stipulated Surrender of License and Order in the Matter of the Accusation Against Robert Weathers, Ph.D., Case No. 1F-2008-190012, Before the Board of Psychology, Department of Consumer Affairs, State of California.</em>

December 16, 2010

Mental health counselor guilty of fraud; saw patients and billed insurance despite revoked license

Filed under: crime and fraud,Medicaid-Medicare fraud,mental health,mental health counselor — Psych Crime Reporter @ 12:09 am

A former clinical counselor in the Finlay, Ohio-area has pled guilty to insurance fraud. Authorities say John Blain Frankenburg, also known as Blain J. Frankenburg, fraudulently billed two insurance companies more than $82,500.

Ohio Department of Insurance Director Mary Jo Hudson said a joint investigation by the Ohio Department of Insurance, the Findlay Police Department and the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office led to the guilty plea.

Frankenburg is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 27, 2011, in Hancock County Common Pleas Court.

The department received a complaint in October 2009 that alleged Frankenburg was seeing patients and billing insurance companies for services he provided although he was no longer licensed to perform such services in the state.

In 2004, the State of Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist Board suspended Frankenburg’s license for three years after it was alleged he had a sexual relationship with a patient. He voluntarily surrendered his license in 2007 after he failed to meet the terms of the consent agreement he signed in 2004.

Frankenburg pled guilty to one count of insurance fraud on December 6, 2010, for fraudulently billing the insurance companies from 2004 to 2009.

Source: “Former Ohio clinical counselor pleads guilty to insurance fraud,” Insurance Journal, December 15, 2010.

December 15, 2010

California psychiatrist Joel S. Dreyer going to prison for 10 years for federal drug/prescribing conviction

Filed under: chronic pain,crime and fraud,psychiatrist — Psych Crime Reporter @ 10:49 pm

Nearly five years after one of his patients was found dead of an overdose, a 73-year-old former Murrieta psychiatrist has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for his role in a prescription drug scheme.

Joel Stanley Dreyer had pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy and distributing a controlled substance. U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips on Monday ordered Dreyer to surrender Feb. 1 at a federal bureau of prisons medical facility in Rochester, Minn.

Dreyer prescribed “some of the most addictive and dangerous opiates without even a pretense of a physical exam,” Phillips said during sentencing. “I think he shows an astounding lack of self-awareness of the seriousness of his conduct.”

Investigators said Dreyer from 2004 until his July 2007 arrest had been prescribing large amounts of addictive drugs, such as the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone, for $100 to $200 per prescription. He met patients at his office as well as in parking lots and restaurants. Dreyer’s patients often were young and seemingly healthy people and he did not perform physical exams before writing prescriptions, authorities said.

On at least one occasion he prescribed addictive drugs to a minor for no medical reason, and his practices contributed to the death of Jessica Silva, 35, of Orange County, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney William Ginsburg said at Monday’s sentencing in a Riverside courtroom that Dreyer has been suffering for years from a degenerative brain disorder that robbed him of his moral compass but not his intellect. He said justice would not be served by sentencing a mentally ill man with about 3½ years to live to federal prison or a medical detention facility.

He met patients at his office as well as in parking lots and restaurants. Dreyer’s patients often were young and seemingly healthy people and he did not perform physical exams before writing prescriptions, authorities said.

“He has gone mad,” Ginsburg told the judge. “I beg and beseech you to show some mercy here.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Antoine Raphael countered that at the time of his arrest, Dreyer did not appear to be suffering any brain damage.

“This is a defendant who was lucid, who tried to outsmart the detectives,” he said. “Let’s be clear, your honor. This was a drug dealer.”

Until shortly before his arrest, Dreyer had been employed as a staff psychiatrist at Oak Grove Institute in Murrieta, a nonprofit residential treatment facility for special-needs children. Silva, who had a history of addiction to prescription drugs, was found dead Dec. 25, 2005, in her Newport Beach home, a police report said. An oxycodone bottle with Dreyer’s name as the prescribing doctor was found near her body.

Her brother, Brett Siciliano, held a portraint of Silva while speaking in court about finding her body.  He blamed her death on the doctor’s greed, arguing that Dreyer should have recognized that his sister needed help, not drugs.

Source: Sarah Burge, “Murrieta: Former doctor sentenced in drug scheme,” The Press-Enterprise, December 13, 2010.

December 9, 2010

Florida prison psychiatrist fired by county after being charged with insurance fraud

A psychiatrist who sees inmates at the Orange County jail was arrested Wednesday on insurance-fraud charges, the jail confirmed.

Arturo Hernandez, 52, was arrested while working at 10:35 a.m., jail records show. He faces charges of scheming to defraud and third-degree grand theft. Details were not available Wednesday.

He was released from the jail after posting $6,000 bail about 2:30 p.m.

The charges are not related to his work, a jail spokesman said.

Hernandez is an employee of the Orange County Department of Health and Human Services, but his job is at the jail. He has been employed by the county since January 2002.

Documents acquired from the Orange County Health Services Department by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights shows that Hernandez (he is referred to as “Dr. Hernandez-Pena” in one of the documents) was terminated on December 3, 2010 from his position as a Corrections Health Psychiatrist for reasons of misconduct.

Source: Anika Myers Palm, “Orange jail psychiatrist faces fraud charges,” Orlando Sentinel, December 1, 2010.


December 8, 2010

German Psychiatric Assocation admits Nazi psychiatrists’ role in holocaust-era crimes

Filed under: crime and fraud,mental health,psychiatrist — Psych Crime Reporter @ 5:48 am
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[The following article is a translation of a November 26, 2010 article from the German online magazine  The original article can be seen here.]

65 years after the end of the Third Reich, the German association of psychiatrists faces up to its dark history—at last. Only today it offers an apology for its crimes committed during the period of the National Socialism.

Only now the German association of psychiatrists officially faces up to its gruesome crimes during the period of the Third Reich. In a commemoration for the victims and the expelled Jewish doctors, president Frank Schneider offers an apology for the atrocities committed.

FOCUS: In this commemoration at the congress of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychiatrie, Psychotherapie und Nervenheilkunde (German Association of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Neurology) you are about to offer an apology for the crimes committed by psychiatry during the period of the National Socialism. Why hasn’t this long been done?

Frank Schneider: I don’t know why we talk about this only now. We are at a loss of words why an event like this one can take place only now. It’s almost impossible to explain, there is no justification for it.

In our association DGPPN we refer to 160 years of tradition, and it existed even in the Third Reich. The president at that time was doing research on racial hygiene and propagated it externally. Inconceivable crimes were being done. And still, after 1945, we didn’t support the victims but we had a part in their renewed discrimination and disadvantage. This darkest part of our history has been shunned and repressed much too long. The persistent silence is also a debasement for the victims. We are ashamed of that.

Today we are going to apologize and ask for reconciliation. A lot of the victims are dead by now, and insofar our solicitation is too late. But maybe it isn’t too late for the people still alive and their descendants – and for all mentally ill people today, for today’s psychiatrists and for the association itself.

FOCUS: How exactly does your association face up to the crimes?

Schneider: To begin with, we decided to change the articles of association. Paragraph 1 now firmly states that the association commemorates the victims and is responsible for what happed back then. And that we are responsible that something like this will never ever happen again.

Furthermore an independent international commission of four outstanding science historians is engaged to research our association’s history in the Third Reich. We provided 150,000 Euros (about 200,000 USD) to accomplish that, and we stipulated to announce the results of the study no matter what comes out of it.

Subsequently we plan to do another study in order to clear up the postwar years, i. e. the period of the cover-up and the repression which went on until the 1980s.

FOCUS: What kind of victims do you commemorate?

Schneider: First of all the approximately 2,000 Jewish psychiatrists who were forced to emigrate and therefore lost their home and their belongings. Then also the people who suffered enforced sterilization and those who were killed.

We also commemorate the victims who beared misery due to psychiatric research, who were maimed or murdered.

FOCUS: You, as president, have made the subject of the National Socialism period to the core theme of this congress and your term in office. Why did you do that?

Schneider: The subject of psychiatry’s Nazi history is very important to me personally. I have always been aghast and wondered: How can psychiatrists kill their patients? And this has been done very extensively either by themselves or they have had other people do it.

Including the East European countries there were all in all about 300,000 mentally ill people whose psychiatrists caused their deaths. That’s incredible.

FOCUS: What kind of reactions did you encounter inside your association?

Schneider: I thought nobody liked the subject but the responses have been positive uniformely. I was surprised and happy about that. I just watered the seed. It was long overdue.

FOCUS: Weren’t there admonishers earlier that fought for a clearing-up and a confession?

Schneider: There was Professor Gerhardt Schmidt, head of psychiatry in Lübeck, Germany, who directly after 1945 came to a clinic where patients starved to death, meaning they were killed. He wrote a very outright book about these conditions. I read it as a student and I was highly impressed at the time. This man named Schmidt was not able to publish his book for 20 years because he was facing a Mafia of psychiatrists who didn’t want anybody to foul their nest. In the 1980s it was a moment of glory in our association to award him with a medal for it.

FOCUS: How come psychiatry’s atrocities have been ignored for so long?

Schneider: It was hushed up and repressed. After the war, three renowned psychiatrists, who made medical estimates for enforced sterilizations and who decided upon life or death, became presidents of our association and even honorary members. One of these former presidents, professor Ehrhardt from Marburg, Germany, was also the leading secretary. He wrote a booklet about the history of German psychiatry and its associations. It isn’t thick. It says that psychiatrists of the Third Reich had no knowledge of what was going on and they didn’t have anything to do with it and they found it all really terrible. This is an official document of the association.

What’s even worse: In the 1960s, when the question arose whether people who suffered forced sterilization should get any indemnity, Ehrhardt and also other psychiatrists appeared as an authority on the subject in the Bundestag (Lower House of German Parliament). In an advisory committee they declared that forced sterilization was compliant to the rules at that time and it was all done within the then current scope of science and nothing was to take back. This is once again a debasement for the victims. There was nobody to say anything against that.

FOCUS: How were the conditions in psychiatry after the war was over?

Schneider: It was awful how the mentally ill were kept back then, in the years after the war. People were locked up in big “loony bins” in the countryside. Especially chronically schizophrenic patients lived in these mental institutions for years.

The revolution in psychiatry in Germany emerged later than in other European countries. For one, there were too little psychiatrists due to the enforced emigration, and those who were here continued with the back then normal lock-up psychiatry for the time being. In other countries the social psychiatric movement started earlier. There the chains were opened more quickly.

Source: Jochen Niehaus, “Third Reich: German psychiatry admits to having committed atrocities,”, 26 November 2010.

(Used with permission of Citizens Commission on Human Rights International.)

December 1, 2010

Psychiatrist Derek A. Ott, reprimanded in patient death, received $94K from pharma companies

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 5:39 am

Los Angeles psychiatrist Derek Ott’s website informs the reader that he “focuses on psychopharmacology in children, adolescents, and adults” and that the “services provided include comprehensive psychiatric diagnostic assessments, psychopharmacological medication management, second opinion consultations and case management.”

It does not mention that he was reprimanded by the Medical Board of California (“Board”) in 2009 for repeated negligent acts, resulting in the death of a patient.

That information was initially made available by the Board and was soon after posted on the website website but it was recently reiterated by the public interest news agency ProPublica, in their recently issued report “Dollars for Docs.”

The article identified hundreds of physicians who collectively received millions from one or more of the seven pharmaceutical companies which publish such information (such companies include Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer).

Pharmaceutical companies may pay physicians for various reasons, such as for giving promotional speeches about a company’s drug to groups of doctors or being a company’s paid consultant.

Their research shows that Ott received more than $94,000 from three pharmaceutical companies between late 2009 and early 2010:

  • $37,818 from Eli Lilly & Co.
  • $8,200 from Astrazeneca and
  • $48,000 from GlaxoSmithKline.

Most of this was fees for “Healthcare professional education programs” (i.e., fees to speak to groups of doctors about a pharma company’s drug).

In February 2009, the Board charged Ott with gross negligence and repeated negligent acts relative to the treatment of a 43-year-old female patient who died from lithium toxicity. At the time Ott prescribed lithium, the patient was also taking the medication vasotec for high blood pressure. Cases of lithium toxicity have been reported in patients receiving vasotec and lithium concurrently, so serum lithium levels in such patients must be monitored more frequently.

“The next morning the patient was transported to the emergency department of a local hospital and died there within 24 hours of admission.”

Following the prescription of lithium, the patient’s first serum level check showed an abnormally high lithium level, which was noted by the staff but not reported to Ott. At the next treatment session, Ott found the patient still aggressive and assaultive and so, without checking the patient’s serum lithium level, he doubled the lithium dosage. The standard of care calls for the lowest dose and blood level of lithium necessary to obtain a “therapeutic response.”

Ott should have ordered a serum lithium level check before doubling the dose or, at the very least, within four or five days after doubling it. At the last treatment session, the patient was more depressed, anxious and fearful as well as delusional and confused. She had tremors and was refusing to eat. She also was having bouts of diarrhea and vomiting. Her speech and thought patterns were noted by staff as incoherent and illogical—all known side effects of lithium toxicity.

Ott did not feel that the patient was exhibiting lithium toxicity, but rather side effects of the antipsychotic, so he ordered her re-started on an anti-cholinergic* drug.

The next morning the patient was transported to the emergency department of a local hospital (where she was found to have an extremely elevated serum lithium level) and died there within 24 hours of admission.

Ott was additionally ordered to successfully complete a prescribing practices and medical record-keeping course, among other requirements.

* A drug or agent that blocks nerve impulses, used to control intestinal spasm, increase the heart rate, dilate the pupils for examination of the eyes, dry secretions in anaesthesia, and in some forms to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

(Used with permission of Citizens Commission on Human Rights International.)

Has psychiatrist Henry Nasrallah accurately reported his pharma income to the University of Cincinnati?

Filed under: atypical antipsychotics,conflicts of interest,psychiatrist — Psych Crime Reporter @ 4:24 am
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The University of Cincinnati website describes schizophrenia researcher Henry Nasrallah as “an internationally recognized psychiatrist, educator and researcher.”  Thanks to the work of the ProPublica news group, the University can now add “internationally recognized researcher compromised by pharmaceutical company influence.”

ProPublica, a public interest news agency, recently issued the report “Dollars for Docs,” in which they identified 384 physicians who received more than $100,000 from one or more of the seven pharmaceutical companies which publish such information (such companies include Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer).

Pharmaceutical companies may pay physicians for various reasons, such as for giving promotional speeches about a company’s drug to groups of doctors or being a company’s paid consultant.

Nasrallah received more than $60,000 from Pfizer the last two quarters of 2009 for presenting “expert-led forums” and for related travel expenses.

He received $41,920 from Astrazeneca in early 2010 for being a paid speaker on their behalf.

He received more than $6,000 from Johnson & Johnson in 2010 for speaking fees.

Nasrallah is not the first or only University of Cincinnati psychiatrist to have his financial conflicts of interests exposed:   Melissa Delbello, a pediatric research psychiatrist with the University of Cincinnati was cited by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee for her failure to disclose to the university how much she had earned from pharmaceutical companies. In 2002, she was the lead author of a study that concluded that children responded well to the antipsychotic drug Seroquel, which is manufactured by AstraZeneca.  She disclosed that she’d received $100,000 from the company between 2005 and 2007, but Finance Committee Ranking Member Senator Charles Grassley discovered it was more than double that: $238,000.

Which raises the question: Has Nasrallah accurately reported his pharma income to the University?

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