Eight women now claim they were fondled, kissed, groped or subject to similar sexual abuse by a South Bay psychiatrist, according to accusations by the California Medical Board.
NBC 7 Investigates broke this story last summer. At that time, three female patients filed complaints of inappropriate sexual behavior against Dr. Leon Fajerman. One former patient told NBC 7 Investigates Dr. Fajerman was inappropriate on three different occasions.
The State Medical Board’s updated accusation, released Wednesday, includes new allegations of sexual abuse and molestation by five more women, four of the patients. The fifth alleged victim is the mother of a child who was Fajerman’s patient.
The victims told investigators that Dr. Fajerman’s behavior left them shocked, distressed, and, in some cases, reduced to tears.
An administrative law judge took the unusual step of immediately suspending Dr. Fajerman's medical license last year, after the first credible complaint of sexual misconduct by a female patient.
Though he's no longer seeing patients at his South Bay offices, the Medical Board investigation continues. It’s 14-page amended accusation recounts, for example, a June 2017 encounter with a female patient, in which Dr. Fagerman allegedly "...pulled the woman toward him, grabbed and squeezed one of her breasts, and kissed her on her mouth."
According to the accusation, the patient pulled away and "...left the office, scared and in shock."
"If there's a predator who's looking for someone that they can easily take advantage of, they're going to pick the vulnerable person,” said Doctor Clark Smith, an expert witness in medical malpractice and physician disciplinary cases.
Dr. Smith, who is also a board-certified psychiatrist and has no connection to the Fajerman investigation, said the allegations against Dr. Fajerman are especially disturbing because his patients are emotionally vulnerable and often struggle with mental illness.
"Someone taking advantage of them, someone being hurtful to them, can cause a lot more damage than say, the average person on the street," Dr. Smith said.
These new allegations describe behavior clearly prohibited by state codes and medical ethics, including the claim that Dr. Fajerman fondled a female patient, then "...grabbed one of her hands, and placed it on or his crotch, over his pants. She resisted and was alarmed by (Dr. Fajerman's) conduct, and left the office in distress."
Dr. Smith said, if true, these allegations violate a bedrock rule of ethical conduct for mental health professionals, who must always maintain strict boundaries with patients.
"There's a prohibition against even establishing a friendship. Certainly against financial dealings. And absolutely against romantic relationships," Smith said.
Dr. Smith said if you're uncomfortable with anything your mental health professional says or does, talk with them about what happened. If you're not satisfied with the professional’s explanation, Dr. Smith suggests you talk with another doctor, or call the San Diego Medical Society, or the state medical board.
Dr. Fajerman has not responded to requests for comment from NBC 7 Investigates.
In an email, Fajerman’s attorney, Robert Frank said, "It's unfortunate the Medical Board has continued to pursue further accusations against Dr. Fajerman. We cannot respond at this time without further information on the specific claims. Dr. Fajerman has a long, distinguished history of providing excellent care to patients, especially those in the underserved communities of San Diego.”
According to the State Medical Board, Fajerman had offices in San Diego, El Cajon, Chula Vista and San Ysidro.