Update: Former doctor Nathaniel Johnson III was arrested Thursday, more than a week after he was formally charged by a Cobb County grand jury with racketeering, theft and practicing medicine without a license.
He was released Thursday night on a bond of $49,720, Cobb jail records show. There is no booking record for Shannon Williams, another co-defendant in the case.
Original story (published May 16, 2017):
It wasn’t the unlicensed Botox parties at someone’s house, nor the admitted sexual misconduct with three patients that got Dr. Peter Ulbrich in trouble with the law.
Instead, Ulbrich was booked into Cobb County jail early Monday on charges of racketeering and theft in a scheme to help an unlicensed doctor practice medicine — including surgery. He bonded out at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
The indictment accuses him of performing surgery under the direction of former OB/GYN Nathaniel Johnson III, who lost his license in a 2014 plea deal in which he admitted to bilking Medicaid of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Doctors & Sex Abuse, part one of an AJC investigation: License to betray
In other instances, Ulbrich would watch as Johnson would perform all or part of the surgery, according to the indictment.
Johnson is facing the same charges, as is an office assistant, Shannon Denise Williams.
According to Cobb arrest warrants from July, the investigation into Johnson started after patients came forward saying they had had some medical procedures done by him.
Johnson’s attorney, Dwight Thomas of Atlanta, told the AJC on Monday that the claims by “unsatisfied” patients were false and an attempt to get money out of the doctor, whom he said did not practice medicine without a license.
A woman who answered the phone at Ulbrich’s Peachtree City office Monday said she didn’t know anything about the arrest. No one at the clinic responded to a request for comment.
Ulbrich was arrested in Coweta County late last week before transferring into Cobb jail, the Cobb district attorney’s office confirmed.
Ulbrich was one of the many doctors highlighted during the AJC’s yearlong national investigation of sexual misconduct by physicians and the systems built to protect them.
He admitted to the Georgia Composite Medical Board that he had had sexual relationships with two female patients and “boundary violations” with a third patient. As part of his discipline, he went to a treatment center in Lawrence, Kansas, for two months in 2010, and his license was suspended.
During his suspension, the board found he was being paid to attend parties where his patients received Botox injections by an unlicensed individual. Nevertheless, the board lifted the suspension in 2011 and allowed him to practice under probation. The probation ended May 8, 2015.
Johnson ran three medical facilities registered in Cobb: Hello Beautiful, Genesis Medical Aesthetics and Royal Advanced Healthcare Centers.
In 2011, the medical board issued an emergency suspension of his license following the death of a woman during a liposuction he was performing. The Cobb County medical examiner found the cause of death to be lidocaine toxicity, and the medical board subsequently barred Johnson from performing cosmetic surgery. The patient’s family also sued him, but the lawsuit was permanently dismissed in Fulton County court in August 2011.
Following his 2014 conviction on state Medicaid fraud charges, he was given a 10-year prison sentence, with the first six months to be served in Fulton County jail.
The recent investigation of Johnson led to the charges against Ulbrich and Williams, a Cobb district attorney’ office spokeswoman said.
The indictment alleges that between February 2015 and November 2016, Johnson would sometimes do pre-op work and then Ulbrich would meet a patient for the first time in the operating room and do the surgery.
The indictment alleges that Ulbrich would also let prescriptions be written in his name as part of the ruse.
Williams, the office assistant, is accused of helping keep up the charade that Johnson was licensed. Prosecutors also say she assisted with medical procedures and “many patients were under the impression that Ms. Williams was the office nurse, although in actuality she did not possess the licensure for that.”
The trio also face theft charges for allegedly deceiving 40 patients who thought they were receiving treatment from a licensed doctor.
“No one was deceived and everything was above board and we have it in writing from each victim that they were fully informed of who was doing what,” said Thomas, the attorney for Johnson.
“A person can be in an office and can do things ... a nurse can assist without practicing medicine.”
Karl Reimers, deputy executive director of the medical board, said the board was notified of the indictments May 9, which is five days after the jury made its decision. May 9 is also the day the AJC first contacted the Cobb district attorney’s office with questions about the indictment.
Reimers said the board referred the matter to the attorney general’s office for further review.
“The Board looks at each matter on a case-by-case basis, which may include any past history. Since this indictment involves an allegation of criminal activity, and not a conviction for the offenses, the Board would reserve making any comment,” Reimers wrote in an email.
It’s not unusual for the state medical board to allow doctors with a history of malpractice, patient sex abuse or other violations to return to practice, according to AJC reviews of medical board records. The doctor-dominated medical board routinely sends errant physicians to classes and therapy programs and then allows them to see patients again.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Ulbrich’s medical license was still listed as “active” by the state medical board. That means after paying his $82,720 bond, he could have walked out of jail and into an operating room.