Licthenthal’s “Dr. Taylor” alias confuses staff and patients
Noah’s Ark continued to grow. One day, Leedom walked in and was surprised to find a new receptionist, hired by Lichtenthal. He’d approached a right-to-life agency in their building and said if any single mothers needed a job, Noah’s Ark could hire them. Leedom was angry. Her husband, Leedom says, retorted that she wasn’t running the clinic—he was. “I didn’t fight it too much,” Leedom says. “It seemed like a worthy endeavor.” Eventually, Lichtenthal hired four single mothers.
Richard Austin, a certified drug counselor, joined the staff. Leedom gave him her standard lecture about not getting involved with female patients.
“I was saying to all the males, do not be alone with the female patients,” Leedom says. “Patients with substance abuse issues will push boundaries. These people will try to become your friend, try to engage you in conversation. Do not get in cars with them, do not tell them where you live, and if you see them in the supermarket, do not engage with them. I was trying to teach people how to be in this setting.”
Who is Michael Taylor?
Claire Zang, a licensed clinical social worker who had worked with Leedom at Hall-Brooke Behavioral Health Services, came on board part-time. Leedom assigned all the substance abuse patients to either Austin or Zang for counseling.
Zang knew Leedom’s husband as Barry Lichtenthal. She started hearing people refer to Dr. Michael Taylor, and didn’t know whom they were talking about. A receptionist told her that Barry Lichtenthal and Dr. Michael Taylor were the same person.
Confused, Zang asked someone she though would know—Robert Lichtenthal, the company president, who continued to drive up from Florida approximately every two weeks. “Oh yeah, that’s Barry,” Robert Lichtenthal said, according to Zang. “He never liked his name.”
Zang then asked if Barry Lichtenthal was a doctor. “Yes, he’s a psychiatrist and a therapist,” Robert Lichtenthal replied, according to Zang.
Zang also asked Leedom about her husband: Is it Barry or is it Dr. Michael Taylor? “Oh, it’s Barry,” Leedom replied, in a tone that communicated the Dr. Michael Taylor moniker was not to be taken seriously. “He has to stop doing that,” Leedom added.
Zang did not, however, ask Leedom if her husband was a doctor. Consequently, Zang believed what the company president had told her—that Barry Lichtenthal was indeed a doctor.
Leedom did not know that anyone truly thought her husband was a doctor. After all, she told all new patients that she was their doctor, and she was the only doctor at Noah’s Ark. To her, Lichtenthal was just telling outrageous stories.
“Because the clinic was so busy I was frequently behind, and while people were waiting in the lobby, he would sit and tell stories—funny stories, outlandish, meant to entertain,” she says. “In those stories, he represented himself as an FBI agent, a Vietnam veteran and a lawyer. It seemed, in my mind, that no one knew what he did, but it didn’t matter.
“He was loud, and I could hear him talking from where I was in the back. People would come into my office, and they would be laughing, saying, ‘Your husband is so funny.’ He was entertaining everybody.”
In fact, Lichtenthal found out that some of the patients were good musicians, and he paid people to come in and play the guitar.
“The atmosphere in the clinic wasn’t some rushed, depressing place,” Leedom says. “There was a feeling of community, compassion and understanding. It was a place where you came to get help.”
Leedom says Lichtenthal continuously praised her for the wonderful work she was doing. In fact, he called her “St. Liane.” And he frequently told Noah’s Ark patients and staff how much he loved Leedom. “I’m doing this for my wife,” he said, according to Leedom.
Another substance abuse clinic
Claire Zang, the social worker, became a full-time employee of Leedom’s private practice, Mood Disorder Specialty, in January 2003. Shortly after that, George Stowe, the LPN, asked her to join a new methadone clinic that he planned to open. “He said he knew this guy, Vinny, who liked to make money and lots of it, and they’re going to go ahead and do a methadone clinic,” Zang relates. “I said no, I’m happy working here.”
The partner Stowe was referring to was Vincent Curcio, owner of Curcio Bail Bonds, located at 285 Congress St., Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Fresh Start Substance Services, LLC, was incorporated on March 18, 2003. Vincent Curcio Jr. was listed as the principal and agent. The business address for the treatment facility was 285 Congress St. in Bridgeport—the same as Curcio Bail Bonds.
Rumors of bad behavior
Trouble had begun brewing at Noah’s Ark. Claire Zang says she heard rumors that Barry Lichtenthal was having sex with all of the secretarial staff, and even with one of the clinic’s cleaning women. Zang says she didn’t know if they were true, and no one told Leedom what was being said.
“I didn’t say anything to her,” Zang says. “I wish I had. Nobody wanted to inform her about anything.”
Lichtenthal, it turned out, was preying upon a few of the young female patients. Under the guise of Dr. Michael Taylor, Licthenthal conducted “physical examinations,” which included checking the women’s breasts, supposedly for lumps.
According to investigative reports and court documents, during the week of February 10, 2003, Lichtenthal convinced two women, both in their early 20s, that he needed to test them to determine if they were lesbians. He brought the women into a private room at Noah’s Ark and instructed them to disrobe and engage in a series of sexual touchings and gropings to determine their “arousal.”
One of the women said Lichtenthal performed an internal pelvic “examination,” without bothering to wear gloves.
Gynecologist from Arizona
Inspectors from the Connecticut Department of Public Health routinely visited Noah’s Ark. One of those visits was on March 13, 2003. Valerie Bryan, RN, SNC, and Kathleen Loviano, RN, came to view additional space that Noah’s Ark was taking in the Merritt Medical Center.
The inspectors asked to see some records, and Leedom left the room to get them. When she returned, Lichtenthal was telling the two nurses that he was a retired obstetrician/gynecologist from Arizona, and he and his partners made a lot of money through telecommunications investments in Florida.
Leedom was dumbfounded. “I thought, what is he doing? Why is he telling her that?” she says. “But I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to open up that can of worms to the state.”
Leedom did not point out that her husband was lying. But her decision not to create waves in front of the state nurses was later interpreted to mean that she was complicit in his lies.
One of the women Lichthenthal “played doctor” with finally told Leedom about his inappropriate behavior. Although Leedom is not able to discuss the details of that conversation, she says that afterward she did not fully comprehend what her husband had done.
Still, Leedom was shaken. “My mind was shot. I felt trapped. I was trapped in a conflicting set of feelings. I recognized the situation as a threat to my life, and it caused me to have a psychological reaction of intense feelings of love and attachment to my husband. The other part of the conflict was that I split off. Part of me realized I was in an unsafe situation.”
Leedom had never before personally dealt with a harassment claim. When a situation involving someone else arose at the hospital, she heard administrators state that it wasn’t lawful for them to report what a patient had said; it was up to the patient to do the reporting. This was consistent with her own training. In her psychiatry practice, she interviewed a number of people who said they’d been abused by priests. The doctor wasn’t expected to call the police; he or she was expected to encourage the patient to take appropriate steps.
“Are you going to go to the police?” Leedom asked the patient. The young woman did not indicate that she was going to the police.
Leedom began thinking that she should close the clinic right away—she didn’t want Lichtenthal there, and she couldn’t run the place by herself. Leedom says she called George Stowe, the LPN, into her office to garner support for the idea of closing. “I said it’s going to be very difficult to stay open,” Leedom relates. “Barry and his cousin were the administrators. I could not be both the medical director and the administrator.”
According to Leedom, Stowe did not mention anything about any of Lichtenthal’s inappropriate behavior that he may have witnessed. Instead, he talked about the good she was doing in the clinic and discouraged her from taking any steps to close it. Other staff members agreed—they did not want to see Noah’s Ark shut down.
Today, Leedom says she is not proud about how she handled the entire situation. “My mishandling of it probably resulted in the chaos that followed,” she says. “I felt all alone. I didn’t want to let everyone down, and it made me irrational.”
The female patient continued to come to Noah’s Ark for treatment, Leedom, says, and she interpreted this to mean that the harassment was not serious enough for the patient to take action.
Leedom banned Lichtenthal from the office while the patient was being treated. That’s when Lichtenthal started bullying her. “You can’t keep me from the office,” Lichtenthal said, according to Leedom. “Noah’s Ark is my cousin’s company. You can’t tell me that I can’t come in.”
But Lichtenthal did stay home—at least for a few weeks.
After the young woman left the program, Lichtenthal wanted to come back to the Noah’s Ark. Not knowing the seriousness of his sexual assault, Leedom believed the issue was over and didn’t argue with him. But she did tell her husband to stop calling himself Dr. Michael Taylor, and told the staff to stop using that name. In fact, she instructed everyone to wear name tags. Lichtenthal’s read:
aka “Doc Taylor”
“It identified him and his purpose at the clinic,” Leedom says.
Her husband refused to wear the name tag.
Complaints to the authorities
On March 14, 2003, that same female patient went to the Bridgeport police and filed a complaint against Barry Lichtenthal, also known as Dr. Michael Taylor. Based on the information she provided, the police suspected Lichtenthal of sexual assault and practicing medicine without a license.
On March 15, 2003, the Connecticut Department of Public Health received an anonymous complaint about Lichtenthal, also known as Dr. Michael Taylor. According to the state’s investigative report, the complainant, a relative of a Noah’s Ark patient, alleged that Dr. Taylor was performing internal pelvic examinations on patients, dispensing medications and performing other related medical activities such as EKGs.
On March 25, 2003, John Overstreet and Diane Cybulski, investigators from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, made an unannounced visit to Noah’s Ark. Afterwards, Overstreet wrote in his affidavit:
- A gentleman who identified himself as being Mike Taylor invited us to his office and asked us for the purpose of our visit.
- I asked Mr. Taylor if he knew who “Barry Lichtenthal” was.
- Mr. Taylor stated that he was Barry Lichtenthal and that he usually went by either of the two names.
Cybulski wrote in her affidavit:
Dr. Leedom stated that she had allowed Barry Lichtenthal to wear an ID badge printed with “Dr. Mike Taylor” while working at Noah’s Ark Foundation because she saw no harm in it. Dr. Leedom further stated that the staff was allowed to call him “Dr.” and the clients also referred to him as “Dr.” up until about two weeks ago when the staff was instructed by her to stop calling him “Dr.”
Leedom disputes Cybulski’s statements. She said the name tags were ordered to clarify everyone’s identity, but her husband never wore his. Leedom does not remember saying to the investigators that she “saw no harm” in Lichtenthal calling himself a doctor. But she does remember asking Overstreet, “Is it illegal to call yourself a doctor?”
It is in Connecticut. Simply by using the name Dr. Michael Taylor, Lichtenthal was breaking the law.