An Oceanside, California, physician accused of sexually assaulting and exploiting five female patients referred to him by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has pleaded guilty.
A trial centered on the sex crimes allegations was set to begin Wednesday morning in a north San Diego County courtroom for Dr. Edgar Manzanera.
But instead of moving forward with the trial, Manzanera took a plea deal, pleading guilty to sexual exploitation of five victims.
A judge ordered him to surrender his medical license. Manzanera agreed to a 3-year prison term; that time is stayed, so he will serve probation instead, unless he violates the terms of his deal.
Manzanera will also have to register as a sex offender.
The disgraced doctor – who had been contracted by the VA – faced five felony counts of sexual penetration of his patients. His victims came forward in June 2018 to report they had been sexually violated by Manzanera during medical exams.
His victims were between the ages of 24 and 54, four of them U.S. military veterans. They said the assaults had taken place in 2015 and 2016. At least one of those assault took place at the QTC Medical Group in Oceanside, according to a complaint filed against Manzanera last year.
QTC Medical Group said it immediately terminated its relationship with Manzanera.
San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Claudia Plascencia talked about the crimes after Wednesday's court proceedings.
"The victims allowed the defendant access to the most intimate parts of their body and he in turn, under the guise of medical evaluation, performed unnecessary gynecological evaluations and inappropriate touching against these victims," Plascencia said.
After the complaint was filed against Manzanera, the Medical Board of California suspended the doctor’s medical license amid court proceedings.
In October 2018, one of Manzanera’s victims – U.S. Navy veteran Paula Kemp – spoke with NBC 7 about how she was driven to start Veteran Sisters, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide support and safety for vets.
The nonprofit is comprised of a network of women who will go to doctor appointments with veterans and act as buffers and companions during those visits.
"We go with them and give them companionship, protection," Kemp explained.
Prior to entering the plea deal Wednesday, Manzanera stood to face a maximum of 14 years in prison, if convicted on all counts.
Plascencia said "the victims wanted justice" and that was delivered.
"Today they received justice," she said.