Neurologist charged in 3 states with groping patients now facing federal indictment

NEW YORK -- A former pain management doctor made sure numerous patients of his were hooked on highly-addictive opioids so they'd become dependent on him before he sexually abused them over a 15 year period, federal prosecutors in New York said Wednesday as they announced an arrest and federal criminal charges.

Ricardo Cruciani leveraged his ability to prescribe or withhold pain medication and enticed multiple women to travel to his offices in New York City; Hopewell, New Jersey; and Philadelphia "to subject them to unlawful sexual abuse," prosecutors said.

He was arrested Wednesday morning, the latest in a string of charges and pleas dating back years.

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Cruciani pleaded guilty to assaulting seven patients in 2016 while he was chairman of Drexel University's neurology department. Under a plea agreement, he was sentenced to seven years' probation. He also had to register as a sex offender and forfeit his medical license.

Then, in 2018, he was arrested on charges he repeatedly raped a patient in New York City, where six victims came forward.

Later that year, seven women alleged Cruciani victimized them between January 2014 and January 2016 while he was chief neurologist at Capital Health's Institute of Neurosciences in Hopewell Township.

The AP reported in November of 2018 that at least 17 women in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey had stepped forward to accuse Cruciani of sexual misconduct in encounters dating back at least a dozen years.

Women who said they were sexually abused by Cruciani told the AP that they felt they had no alternative but to continue seeing the Ivy League-trained neurologist, who specialized in rare, complicated syndromes that produce debilitating pain.

"As alleged, Ricardo Cruciani's sexual abuse involved developing personal relationships with victims to engender trust, and prescribing addictive pain medication that caused his patients to become dependent on him as he engaged in a course of increasingly abusive conduct," US Attorney Damian Williams said. "The alleged pattern of abuse in this case is outrageous, and Cruciani now faces federal charges for it."

Cruciani, 63, of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, is charged with five counts of enticing and inducing individuals to travel interstate to engage in illegal sexual activity, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

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"Cruciani prescribed significant quantities of opioids to victims and required victims to return for in-person appointments or visits to obtain prescription refills," the indictment said. "After developing or attempting to develop a rapport with victims, Ricardo Cruciani, the defendant, began to engage in a course of physical sexual abuse of the victims."

The indictment is based on the accounts of five different women, identified only as Victim-1-5.

"Doctors like the defendant take an oath to do no harm," Williams said. "It is difficult to imagine conduct more anathema to that oath than exploiting patients' vulnerability in order to sexually abuse them."

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