A once-respected doctor was convicted Friday of sexually assaulting vulnerable patients, who he controlled by overprescribing high doses of pain medication and withholding the drugs from those who didn’t comply with his disturbing requests.
Ricardo Cruciani was convicted Friday by a New York State Supreme Court jury of 12 counts connected to the years-long abuse of patients in his neurology and pain management practice, including predatory sexual assault, rape, attempted rape, sexual abuse and criminal sexual acts, according to a statement from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg Jr.
“Ricardo Cruciani abused his power as a medical professional and knowingly took advantage of his patients’ pain. We entrust doctors to respect our bodies and health when we go to them for help, yet Dr. Cruciani utterly violated that duty,” Bragg said. “Dr. Cruciani left in his wake six survivors who continue to suffer from debilitating diseases and, now, years of trauma.”
He went on to say that while prosecutors could “never undo his horrific actions” he was hopeful the conviction would provide a “measure of justice for the brave survivors who came forward to share their stories and endured this long and painful trial.”
Assistant District Attorney Shannon Lucey told jurors that Cruciani had targeted “broken and complex” women who sought out the respected doctor’s help at Beth Israel Medical Center, according to The New York Post.
He then developed a personal relationship with the patients, discussing his own personal life, using his training in psychiatry to ask them pointed questions about their childhood and marital relationships and initiating physical contact with the women by stroking their hair or pulling them into “uncomfortably tight hugs,” prosecutors said.
The physical contact continued to escalate until prosecutors said he forcibly kissed the women and forced them to have sex or perform oral sex behind closed doors at the medical office.
An indictment in the case previously obtained by Oxygen.com said the victims were often “incapable of consent.”
Cruciani wielded his power over his victims by making them dependent on him. He overprescribed “dangerously high doses” of pain medication, which left his patients with few other options since many doctors refused to prescribe that level of medications. When they failed to submit to his demands, he withheld their medications until they complied.
“The survivors were left with opioid addictions, sexual trauma and without proper medical care for their extremely rare and painful diseases,” prosecutors said after the verdict.
Tanisha Johnson told The New York Times in 2021 that she had sought out Cruciani for help with debilitating migraines and initially found the doctor to be warm and charming. But over time, she said Cruciani increased her dependence on the highly-addictive pain medication, at one point prescribing her a mix of more than 1,300 pain pills a month.
He masturbated in front of her and forced her to perform oral sex.
If she refused, she said he wouldn’t refill her medications.
“The first week of opioid withdrawal feels like death,” she said.
Hillary Tullin had been one of the first to report Cruciani for abuse by calling a hotline.
She told The New York Times last year that during the abuse, Cruciani had even started to call her at home almost daily to tell her he was thinking about her, and had once forcibly kissed her.
She described the verdict Friday to the paper as a “great sense of relief” and said she was “beyond happy.”
“As much as I’ve gone through trauma counseling and therapy,” she said. “I don’t think it was until I got this verdict that I could finally say, I can start healing. I can start trying to rebuild my life again.”
Cruciani’s attorney, Fred Sosinsky, said in a statement to Oxygen.com that they plan to appeal the verdict, noting he was “confident” that a “good number of legal errors” were committed by the trial court.
“Our client and his beautiful family are crushed by today’s verdict,” he said. “In the end, it appears that the collective weight of six accusers, rather than a fair consideration of each of their problematic accounts, carried the day.”
Cruciani, who is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 14, was jailed after the verdict was read in court, according to The Associated Press.
The 68-year-old, who surrendered his medical license in 2017, is also facing five federal counts of enticing and inducing individuals to travel interstate to engage in illegal sexual activity in medical offices in New York City, Philadelphia and Hopewell, New Jersey.
Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, told Oxygen.com late last month that Cruciani's federal trial is slated to begin Jan. 23, 2023.