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Ex-Doctor Gets 2-Year Term for Mail Fraud

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In one of California’s worst cases of patient abuse, a former Tustin gynecologist was sentenced Monday to two years in prison by a federal judge who reprimanded him for bringing “shame to a noble profession.”

Dr. Ivan C. Namihas, once the subject of the largest sexual abuse medical investigation in state history, was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs after he was also ordered to pay a $40,000 fine and $12,000 in restitution.

The judge ordered that Namihas undergo psychological and psychiatric treatment for what the judge described as his “perverted nature” and that upon his release, he not be allowed to practice medicine or “be employed in the medical field in any manner.”

A jury convicted the 63-year-old doctor in June of 15 counts of mail fraud, finding he had duped nine patients into believing they had deadly diseases such as AIDS and cancer, then used the mail to bill them and their insurance companies for unnecessary laser surgery.

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Former patients packed the courtroom for Namihas’s 8 a.m sentencing. Some said they were disappointed that Namihas didn’t receive a heavier sentence, but were pleased that what they described as their “nightmare” was finally over.

Shirley Corbin, a Namihas patient in the early 1970s who said she was subjected to sexual harassment and unwanted advances, said she felt there “is now some closure to the case.”

“After 25 years, it’s over,” said Corbin, a 68-year-old Lemon Heights resident. “I’m disappointed with the [sentence] but I’m pleased he’s going to jail.”

Charis McDaniel, a 49-year-old Orange resident who was a witness at the doctor’s trial, said: “Namihas deserves to go to jail.”

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“Some jail time is better than no time,” said Stacy Crumpler, a 24-year-old Newport Beach woman who reached an out of court settlement in 1993 over a civil suit in which she accused Namihas of performing unnecessary surgery. “It will give him two years to reflect on the rotten things he has done to people.”

The three were among 160 women who told the California Medical Board that Namihas had virtually tortured them during his 30-year practice.

Some witnesses in the trial testified that Namihas performed laser surgery--which is considered extremely painful and expensive--in cases where patients’ tests results came back negative.

Other victims reported that they had been fondled, masturbated or otherwise sexually abused by the doctor. One woman accused Namihas of raping her. Another said he deliberately withheld anesthesia while suturing her after a hysterectomy. Many accused Namihas of inappropriate sexual innuendo or of trying to kiss them.

The medical board eventually stripped Namihas of his license to practice medicine in 1992 after he declined to contest the allegations of sexual abuse.

Before sentencing Namihas, McLaughlin said the Brazilian-born doctor had “a variety of evil intent” in abusing his patients, adding that he was probably driven by “psychological and sexual” motives rather than a greed for money.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to give Namihas a nine-year sentence, while a pre-sentencing report recommended five years.

But McLaughlin said she was sentencing Namihas for mail-fraud violations, not his “uncharged misdeeds.”

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Over the government’s objection, McLaughlin said Namihas would be granted bail pending an appeal of his conviction. But the doctor must first double his cash bond by posting another $100,000.

Namihas’s attorneys notified McLaughlin on Monday that they plan to appeal the doctor’s conviction on the grounds that a juror prejudiced the panel by providing an account of a controversial operation that a defense expert witness performed on the juror’s wife. The juror was eventually dismissed from the jury and the remaining jurors found the doctor guilty of all 15 counts.

“We appreciate the fact that the judge excluded inflammatory and emotional material in considering her sentence,” said Paul S. Meyer, a defense attorney. “There is a reasonable likelihood that this case will again come to trial.”

But Assistant U.S. Atty. Jonathan Shapiro, the prosecutor, described as “rock solid” the judge’s decision to deny Namihas a new trial.

Shapiro said he was pleased with the overall outcome of the case.

Shapiro decided to investigate Namihas for violating federal mail-fraud statutes after state and local prosecutors declined to press sexual assault charges against the doctor because the one-year statute of limitations had expired in most of the cases and they lacked corroborating evidence in others.

When the first trial on 10 counts of mail fraud ended in a hung jury in March 1995, Shapiro pursued the case and persuaded a federal grand jury to issue an additional five counts of mail fraud against the doctor, who is a Las Vegas resident.

“This shows that justice is sometime delayed, but it is never denied,” Shapiro said.

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