Cobb DA: Docs, fake nurse face 90 charges for illegal medical practice

The Cobb County district attorney’s office has convinced a grand jury to add 80 counts to the charges for each member of a trio who allegedly ran an illegal medical practice.

Former doctor Nathaniel Johnson III, suspended doctor Peter Ulbrich and secretary Shannon Denise Williams were all re-indicted on the additional counts Thursday, court records show. They were already facing 10 counts each.

The new indictment outlines in better detail how the three ran an unregulated medical practice where, allegedly, unlicensed doctors performed surgery and a secretary played nurse.

Half of the 90 charges are theft and racketeering counts that accuse them of bilking patients by tricking them into paying for unlicensed services.

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All three are accused of keeping up the charade of a legitimate medical practice.

The other half are charges of practicing medicine without a license. Those charges apply to Williams, who hasn't been a Georgia doctor. She was arrested in December.

The trio were first indicted in May 2017.

This isn’t the first brush with the law for Ulbrich and Johnson. Both have separate and murky medical pasts.

Ulbrich admitted to sexual misconduct with patients and attending Botox parties at homes.

AJC National Investigation | Doctors cut plea deals for sex crimes

Prosecutors in this case accuse Ulbrich of performing surgery under the direction of Johnson, who lost his license in a 2014 plea deal in which he admitted to bilking Medicaid of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Johnson served six months in Fulton County jail for the fraud.

Three years before that, the medical board issued an emergency suspension of Johnson’s license following the death of a woman during a liposuction he was performing.

Cobb’s 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.

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In the most recent charges, Cobb police warrants from July 2017 show that the investigation began with Johnson after patients came forward saying they had medical procedures done by him.

The indictment alleges that Johnson ran three medical facilities registered in Cobb — Hello Beautiful, Genesis Medical Aesthetics and Royal Advanced Healthcare Centers — using Ulbrich’s name as a cover.

Prosecutors said Johnson would write prescriptions in Ulrich’s name with Ulbrich’s permission.

Sometimes Johnson would do the pre-op work, and Ulbrich would meet the patient for the first time in the operating room, according to the indictment. Ulbrich would then watch Johnson perform surgery, which he was specifically barred from doing after a patient died during one of his previous surgeries.

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Ulbrich's license was suspended in August after failing a polygraph test when asked about "sexual encounters" with patients. He admitted to sexual contact with four former female patients after leaving a rehabilitation program in Kansas. The suspension came three months after his May 2017 arrest.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reviews of records revealed that it is 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. The doctor-dominated medical board routinely sends errant physicians to classes and therapy programs and then allows them to see patients again.

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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.

The AJC recently revisited the investigation only to find that the problems were still pervasive, uncovering 450 cases of doctors who were brought before medical regulators or courts for sexual misconduct or sex crimes in 2016 and 2017 — in nearly half of those cases the doctors remain licensed to practice medicine.

Ulbrich's medical license is still listed as "suspended."

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