Ventura County Medical Examiner, under investigation, is placed on paid leave

The Ventura County medical examiner is under investigation for allegedly performing unauthorized postmortem procedures, officials said.

Details about the procedures have not been released by the Ventura County district attorney's office, which is investigating claims against Chief Medical Examiner Jon J. Smith.


Smith was placed on paid administrative leave this week after the investigation was announced, said Barry Fisher, director of the Ventura County Health Care Agency.

"We are doing our own internal investigation," Fisher said, adding that both the county and its health department are looking into the allegations against Smith.

Smith did not immediately return requests for comments.

Investigators with the district attorney's office and California Medical Board searched the county's medical examiner's office Monday.

Investigators seized "significant documentary evidence" during their search, the district attorney's office said.

The investigation is expected to take several months.

The Ventura County Star report the allegations likely center on Smith's approving an autopsy that  was performed at a funeral home in Louisiana. He is not licensed in that state but might have been marketing his services to out-of-state funeral homes, the Star reported.

Families of those who have died and were referred to the medical examiner's office after 2012 were asked to call district attorney investigators at (805) 477-1651.

Smith has been the county's chief medical examiner since June 2012.

Meanwhile, Fisher said the medical examiner's office has remained open and is conducting forensic investigations.

Fisher declined to comment about the allegations but said the county health department has not received complaints about Smith.

The Santa Barbara County coroner-sheriff is also investigating the claims against Smith, who was a contract pathologist.

Smith was one of two forensic pathologists who performed autopsies in Santa Barbara County.

"We have been informed by the Medical Board of California that there has been no action taken to date by that agency and that the forensic pathologist involved is fully licensed and authorized to practice and carry out the duties of a pathologist," the sheriff's office said in a statement.


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