More than 30 victims of unlicensed doctors helped Cobb County jurors convict three people of running a sham cosmetic surgery clinic.
Nathaniel Johnson III, Dr. Peter Ulbrich and Shannon Williams were convicted Friday on charges of racketeering, practicing medicine without a license and theft by deception, the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office said, for their roles at the Hello Beautiful clinic in Vinings.
All three defendants were returned to jail following Friday’s verdict. They will be sentenced Dec. 4 in front of Cobb County Superior Court Senior Judge Grant Brantley, who heard the three-week trial.
Johnson is a former doctor who was barred from practicing medicine after he was convicted in 2014 of Medicaid fraud, practicing without a license and conspiracy to defraud the state.
Dr. Ulbrich’s license has been suspended twice before in the state of Georgia. One of the doctors named in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s award-winning Doctors & Sex Abuse series, he had his license suspended indefinitely in 2017 by the Georgia Composite Medical Board after it was determined he failed a polygraph test when asked about “sexual encounters” with current and former patients. He received treatment for sexual misconduct and admitted sexual contact with four patients, according to board records.
His license was also suspended in 2010 after the medical board found he engaged in sexual misconduct and exploitation of patients from about 2000 to 2010. He was allowed to return to practice in 2011 on probation, which was lifted in 2015.
Williams, who was the secretary at the clinic, was also convicted on 11 counts of practicing medicine without a license and theft. Prosecutors also say Williams helped Johnson during consultations, during operations and during patients’ follow-up care.
Cobb County prosecutors outlined to jurors how the doctors and secretary set up the cosmetic surgery clinic.
Despite being banned from practicing medicine, Johnson went back to work at Hello Beautiful after he was released from jail in 2015, prosecutors said. Ulbrich, a licensed doctor at the time, was “brought on to lend legitimacy to the clinic,” the DA’s office said.
Michelle Smith, who represented Ulbrich, said she was “saddened by the verdict in this case and will be filing an appeal.”
“I think the record clearly reflects that there was no racketeering, no theft by deception and Dr. Ulbrich, at all times during these procedures, had a license and all patients knew he was performing procedures,” she said.
The DA’s office said more than 30 patients testified at the trial, which began Oct. 7. Jurors were told that Johnson provided care to patients in 2015 or 2016, and “they were unaware he had lost his license, and that they would not have paid him if they knew he was not licensed to practice medicine.”
Prosecutors said Johnson performed procedures like fat transfers, liposuction and Brazilian butt lifts. Patients undergoing these operations paid thousands of dollars. Senior Assistant District Attorney Jason Marbutt said one patient tried to report Johnson’s actions to the medical board in 2016 when she had a dispute with him about her surgery, and “the way he spoke with her seemed unprofessional.” She contacted the medical board only to learn that he didn’t have a license. She was referred to the Cobb County Police Department, which began its investigation.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Jason Marbutt said many of the victims suffered “disfiguring surgeries or unhappy results,” but several were satisfied with Johnson’s work.
“The state’s case was not about results of the procedures,” he said. “The defense tried to make this case about results, and that simply is not relevant to the issue of whether he did or did not practice medicine.”
The patients said they first met Ulbrich in the surgery room, after only dealing with Johnson during consultations “where they disrobed and allowed Johnson to evaluate their bodies,” prosecutors said. Others testified the men performed surgeries together.
“The common thread was that patients believed Johnson was a doctor,” the DA’s office said. “Patients also testified that Williams – who had worked for Johnson for several years and knew he was not licensed – introduced and continually referred to him as ‘Dr. Johnson,’ furthering the deception that he was a doctor.”
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