Psychiatrists & Psychologists Guilty of Fraud, Sex Crimes Most Often

October 17, 2018

A new Citizens Commission on Human Rights analysis of hundreds of criminal convictions of psychiatrists and psychologists reveals which kinds of crimes they are convicted of most often.

Citizens Commission on Human Rights International (CCHR) recently analyzed 647 convictions of psychiatrists and psychologists worldwide from over a 17-year period (2000-2017).

The analysis showed that the top two crimes committed by psychiatrists and psychologists are fraud and sex-related crimes—36% and 30%, respectively.


The defrauding of government and private health plans through the filing false claims (and similar scams) constitutes the majority of the 236 fraud cases in this analysis. Such cases include the following: 

  • In February 2015, Illinois psychologist Keenan Ferrell was sentenced to 70 months in prison for submitting $1.5 million in false claims to Medicaid for psychotherapy services which he did not provide.[i]  
  • Louisiana psychologist Rodney Hesson was sentenced July 13, 2017 to 180 months prison for his part in a $25 million Medicaid fraud scheme which he carried out through eight companies operating health care facilities in four states.[ii]

  • Psychiatrist Zahid Imran pleaded guilty to having falsely billed $258 million to Medicaid over a seven-year period for services which he did not deliver and for which his clients did not qualify.[iii]

However, CCHR includes in the fraud category any fraudulent act, such as the following:

  • On May 26, 2015 Chicago psychiatrist Slawomir Puszkarski pled guilty to immigration/naturalization fraud. Puszkarski “…knowingly attempt[ed] to procure, contrary to law, the naturalization of another person” by falsely attesting in a waiver that the person suffered from psychiatric and medical conditions which prevented them from being able to learn English, yet he’d never performed any medical examination on the person.[iv] 
  • September 30, 2016 Oklahoma psychiatrist Steve Delia was found guilty of health care fraud for having pre-signed approximately 9,000 blank prescriptions for his assistant and nursing staff to prescribe Schedule II narcotics while he was deployed in Afghanistan.[v]  
  • Luis Escabi-Perez, of Puerto Rico, pleaded guilty July 29, 2015 to defrauding the Social Security Administration. Escabi-Perez sold false psychiatric reports for $500 each to people seeking to claim disability insurance benefits.[vi]

Sex crimes

The greatest percentage of the 192 sex-related cases CCHR reviewed are for sexual abuse and assault of patients (both adults and children) and include these:

  • California psychologist Michael D. Ward was sentenced to life in prison in August 2017 for oral copulation, sodomy and lewd acts on two children—reported as being family members—under the age of 10.[vii]   
  • February 8, 2013 psychiatrist Aubrey Levin was sentenced to five years in prison for repeated sexual assaults on three male patients—offenders in custody of the Alberta criminal justice system—for assessment and treatment by the Alberta criminal justice system.[viii]   
  • In February 2016, Pennsylvania psychologist Richard Lenhart was sentenced to a minimum of three years prison for engaging in sex acts with highly vulnerable patients over 17 years under the guise of therapy and falsely billing their insurance for the sessions.[ix] 

CCHR also includes in this category such crimes as possession of child pornography, engaging in prostitution, attempted solicitation of a child, and indecent exposure:

  • On December 5, 2016, Los Angeles psychiatrist Brian Cassmassi pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. He was placed on three years’ probation and was ordered to have no contact with male patients except in the presence of a medical professional chaperone for the entire probation period. Cassmassi was initially charged with indecent exposure for showing gay pornography to a male patient masturbating in front of him.[x]    
  • Billy Lockhart, a graduate of Yale University School of Medicine and former psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco pleaded guilty July 18, 2018 to possession of child pornography. San Francisco police detected Lockhart uploading and trading child porn online. Investigators found more than 600 videos and images on devices in his home.[xi]

  • On July 11, 2015, Pennsylvania psychiatrist Michael Kessler was sentenced to a minimum of 18 months in prison for unlawful contact with a minor. Kessler befriended a single mother with a 13-year-old boy and began sexually “grooming” the child. He later began contacting the boy via Facebook, posing as a teenager, and providing links to pornography and soliciting the boy for sex acts. Kessler had been convicted in 2001 and 2010 when he allowed children to see him masturbating in front of his open window and in his car.[xii]  


One area which has grown in proportion is drug-related crimes, which represent 14% of convictions—more than double the percentage CCHR found in an earlier analysis (6%). Some of the more notable drug crimes:

  • UK psychiatrist Michelle O’Sullivan was convicted September 14, 2017 of importing, possession of, and offering to supply controlled substances. O’Sullivan came under investigation when Border Force officers intercepted a package containing 400 diazepam and alprazolam tablets which had been sent to her from India. Investigation of her home found bags of ketamine, cocaine, MDMA, cannabis, and nitrous oxide canisters."[xiii]    
  • On March 9, 2015, Maryland psychiatrist Priscilla Sheldon-Cost was convicted for drug conspiracy and drug possession and sentenced to six months in jail. Sheldon-Cost, who received her degree from Johns Hopkins University, was found to have been manufacturing the stimulant-hallucinogenic club drug MDMA.[xiv]     
  • Connecticut psychiatrist Ljudmil Kljusev entered a guilty plea one count each of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and health care fraud. Kljusev sold prescriptions for Xanax and Adderall “out of his office "like a common drug dealer,” said the U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Kljusev.[xv]

Murder and manslaughter

CCHR has long contended that “Psychiatry Kills” because its drugs, shocks, and brain operations destroy lives and do indeed kill patients. But psychiatrists and psychologists are not above killing people outside of the treatment room either. CCHR’s analysis found that five percent of the cases reviewed were for murder, manslaughter and the like—including these:

  • Ohio psychiatrist Ali Salim pleaded guilty October 24, 2013 to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter to charges of and murder of a pregnant woman and her unborn baby. The woman had contacted Salim via Craigslist, ostensibly to clean his house. He also pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and abusing the woman’s corpse.[xvi]    
  • On July 21, 2016, Florida psychiatrist Alexis Touchton-Williams was sentenced to 25 years prison for the attempted murder and aggravated battery of her ex-husband, whom she shot when he came to pick up his five-year-old daughter for visitation.[xvii]   
  • Japanese psychiatrist Shoichiro Kaneko was sentenced in June 2017 to five years in prison for causing car crashed that killed one and injured several, following a seizure he suffered behind the wheel. The court found that Kaneko should have known better than to be driving while fatigued.[xviii]

Country of origin

The United States accounted for 76% of the crimes and violations committed by psychiatrists and psychologists, with the UK a distant second (5%) and Australia, Russian, and Canada tied for a distant third (2% each).

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CCHR has been investigating and exposing psychiatric crime, fraud, and violations of human rights since 1969.

As the world’s pre-eminent mental health watchdog, CCHR assists individuals who have been harmed by a psychologist or psychiatrist by documenting the abuses and helping them to file complaints, if possible.  

To report psychiatric abuse, please visit CCHR's website.

[i] “Psychologist And Psychotherapy Services Owner Sentenced To Over Seven Years, And Employee Sentenced To Over Five Years

In $1.5 Million Medicare Fraud,” Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Illinois, February 23, 2015.

[ii] “Clinical Psychologist and Owner of Psychological Services Centers Sentenced to 264 Months for Roles in $25 Million Psychological Testing Scheme Carried out Through Eight Companies in Four States,” Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, July 14, 2017.

[iii] “BR Psychiatrist Pleads Guilty to Health Care Fraud,” The Advocate, May 14, 2014.

[iv] U.S. vs Slawomir Puszkarski, Case No. 14CR570, Violations: Title 18, USC Sections 371 and 1425 (Grand Jury indictment), United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, October 7, 2014.

[v] “Tulsa Doctor Found Guilty Of Health Care Fraud,” Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Oklahoma, September 30, 2016.

[vi] “Former psychiatrist sentenced for Social Security Fraud,” Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Puerto Rico, July 3, 2017.

[vii] “La Cañada man, a former sheriff’s psychologist, sentenced to life for sex crimes against children,” Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2018.

[viii] “Forensic psychiatrist gets five years in prison,” Calgary Herald, January 31, 2013.

[ix] “Psychologist who billed insurer for illegal 'sex therapy' with patients can't talk his way out of jail,”, April 6, 2016.

[x] Accusation in the Matter of the Accusation Against Brian Joseph Cassmassi, License No. A113944, Case No. 800-2015-017882, Medical Board of California, March 7, 2018.

[xi] “Ex-UCSF psychiatrist charge with possession of child porn pleads guilty,” Associated Press, July 18, 2018.

[xii] “Cresco ex-psychiatrist caught ‘grooming’ boy on Facebook sentenced,” Pocono Record, July 11, 2015.

[xiii] “Woman sentenced for drugs offences, press release of UK Metropolitan Police, November 10, 2017.

[xiv] “Psychiatrist, veteran sentenced in Towson 'molly' lab case,” Baltimore Sun, March 9, 2015

[xv] “Milford psychiatrist pleads guilty to federal narcotics charges,” New Haven Register, November 30, 2016.

[xvi] “Doctor takes plea deal, avoids trial in pregnant woman’s death,” Columbus Dispatch, October 25, 2013.

[xvii] “Florida Psychiatrist Sentenced To 25 Years For Trying To Kill Ex-Husband, Associated Press, May 27, 2016.



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