‘It was all a lie:’ Fake doc who ran clinics for 15 years gets prison

A woman pleaded guilty to pretending to be a doctor while running clinics throughout the country — including one in Marietta — during the last 15 years. Isabel Kesari Gervais, 60, used multiple names while offering naturopathic medicine, prosecutors said. Naturopathic medicine uses homeopathic and detoxification methods, among other things, to help patients heal themselves. Gervais admitted to running clinics in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas and Georgia, promising patients she could cure illnesses li

Isabell Kesari Gervais boasted a medical degree from England, decades of experience and ran her own clinic.

So all seemed well when an Alabama woman with stage 3 breast cancer was referred to Gervais in August 2015 by a friend who also had cancer.

But Gervais, sentenced to six years and three months in prison Tuesday, bilked the woman of thousands of dollars and delayed a surgery the woman had planned, court records show. The woman now has stage 4 cancer, and it has moved to her lungs.

“This delay, in retrospect ... may have contributed to its spreading to my lungs,” the victim wrote in a federal court document.

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Several people have come to authorities with similar stories from the 15 years Gervais crisscrossed the South, including Marietta, sapping sick people of time and money when they desperately needed both.

The 60-year-old woman pleaded guilty in July.

Gervais claimed to practice naturopathic medicine, which the federal government says uses homeopathic and detoxification methods, among other things, to help patients heal themselves.

She had no license to practice medicine in the U.S. but still wore a white coat, went on the radio giving health advice and got a National Provider Identifier for insurance billing.

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This is an advertisement from Isabell Gervais from October 2009 promoting her medical practice in Cobb County.

Credit: U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama

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Credit: U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama

In a 2009 advertisement titled “Dr. Isabell Heals Mind, Body and Spirit in East Cobb” promoting her new Cobb County office, she claims to have treated villagers in Kenya and “lords and ladies in London” during her 18 years of practice.

“Healing people is more effective than treating diseases,” she wrote.

Federal attorneys said she created fake diplomas and letters of recommendation to get licenses and register businesses. She leased property and hired employees.

“It was all a lie,” prosecutors wrote in her sentencing memorandum.

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Gervais often used variations on the names “Dr. Rose Starr” or “Debra Lynn Goodman.” She ran the Chiron Clinic in Marietta.

Georgia business records show a "Debrah L. Goodman" registered the business to an office inside Northside Hospital in April 2004. The business dissolved in May 2008.

She has left a string of failed businesses and debts that will probably never be repaid, prosecutors said.

The feds said she was convicted for forging a judge’s signature to get a name change and then got a driver’s license and a passport with that name in January 2014.

“Each time she faced trouble ... the defendant simply relocated and changed her own name or the name of her business,” the prosecutor wrote.

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During one of her arrests, she had a note in her pocket. One of the items on the to-do list was “create my new identity,” court documents allege.

When she fell behind on rent for the Marietta office, she legally changed her name to “Isabell Gervais” from Goodman and left for Montgomery soon after, according to the court record.

She was later sued in Cobb County Superior Court for defaulting on a loan for medical equipment.

As part of her Tuesday sentencing, Gervais has been ordered to pay back $45,000 of restitution to victims and forfeit about $113,000 to the government, records show.

The Alabama woman with breast cancer, whose name is redacted in court records, reported to police that Gervais used the sick woman’s credit card information to spend thousands of dollars.

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The woman said Gervais took a lock of her hair and four drops of blood for DNA testing that prosecutors said was never done.

Gervais asked personal questions, poked and prodded people for samples, connected them to machines and fed them pills all without a medical license, prosecutors said.

“It is also clear that her patients, in consulting with her rather than licensed professionals, lost valuable time,” the prosecutor wrote. “ ... Who knows whether (the Alabama woman) would be enduring continual treatments for Stage Four cancer today if she had not put her trust in the defendant?”