Lichtenthal charged with multiple crimes
Dr. Leedom hit with multiple lawsuits
When Noah’s Ark closed, Claire Zang was out of a job—until George Stowe again asked her to work for his new clinic. Zang agreed to do it.
About a week after Noah’s Ark shut down, Fresh Start opened up. The treatment facility had barely begun the licensing process to become a methadone maintenance facility, so the only business it had was counseling the patients that Zang brought with her from Noah’s Ark.
On May 2, 2003, three weeks after Noah’s Ark shut down and two weeks after Fresh Start opened—George Stowe filed a lawsuit against Liane Leedom. Court documents stated, in part, the following. (“Stowe” has been substituted for the phrase “the plaintiff” that appears in the original. “Leedom” has been substituted for “the defendant.”)
- Leedom represented to Stowe that a licensed and qualified medical doctor, Dr. Michael Taylor, would be working at Noah’s Ark, providing medical treatment to patients using the services of the medical clinic, where the plaintiff would be working.
- On or about April 2, 2003, a subpoena duces tecum, issued by the State of Connecticut Department of Health, was served on Stowe concerning the matter of “Mr. Barry Lichtenthal.”
- Stowe came to learn that Dr. Michael Taylor was a fictitious character, who did not exist, and that Barry Lichtenthal had fraudulently adopted his name and character, and unlawfully conducted a practice of medicine at Noah’s Ark, with the full knowledge and concurrence of Leedom.
- Leedom was fully aware that the plaintiff had been subpoenaed to provide information to the State of Connecticut Department of Health concerning Barry Lichtenthal.
- Leedom had full knowledge that Stowe had responded to the subpoena and fully cooperated with the State of Connecticut Department of Health.
- Upon Stowe’s return to work for Leedom on April 9, 2003, she summarily terminated his employment without justification.
- Leedom informed the plaintiff that he was being discharged solely because he had responded to the subpoena and had cooperated in the investigation being conducted by the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
- Connecticut General Statutes provides, in relevant part, “No employer shall discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize any employee ”¦ because an employee is requested by a public body to participate in an investigation, hearing or inquiry held by that public body”¦
- The termination of the Stowe’s employment by Leedom violated the provisions of the Connecticut General Statutes.
- If Stowe had been informed truthfully by Leedom that he would be working along side an individual who would be falsely holding himself out as a licensed physician in Connecticut, Stowe would never have accepted employment with Leedom.
- As a result of the intentional misrepresentations made by Leedom, Stowe has suffered emotional distress and loss of income and benefits of employment.
The lawsuit demanded money damages, attorney fees and costs. And to make sure he got them, Stowe filed a $50,000 lien—a “prejudgment remedy of attachment”—on Leedom’s house.
Barry Lichtenthal was in jail. After the extensive media coverage of his arrest, two additional women went to the Bridgeport police to file complaints.
One of them, whom the police detective referred to as “Jane Doe,” stated that Lichtenthal, aka Dr. Michael Taylor, felt her neck for lumps and said her glands were swollen. Then he said he had to examine her breasts for lumps. “He proceeded to place his hands on her breasts from under her shirt and ‘groped’ her for approximately five minutes,” the police affidavit states.
The affidavit also recounts the statements made by the other patient who complained. She said Lichtenthal:
- While examining her, touched her private parts and breasts
- Gave her a test to see if she was a lesbian
- Had her perform an EKG on another patient
- Prescribed Ativan and Zanex for her, in addition to methadone
- Wrote out the prescriptions on Dr. Leedom’s prescription pad
- When she visited the clinic shaking, gave her Valium out of a vault
Not only was Lichtenthal accused of assaulting the female patients, he had violated probation while doing it.
In 1998, Lichtenthal, even then using the name Michael Taylor, pled guilty in an $80 million securities telemarketing fraud case that snagged nine defendants, including a former U.S. Attorney. According to a news release issued by the United States Postal Service, Lichtenthal admitted conspiracy to commit mail, wire and securities fraud. “The charge arose from his sales of communications-related ventures through Northeast Telecom,” the release states. “He admitted diverting investor funds for his personal use, including $300,000 for a down payment on his home and the purchase of $265,000 worth of toy trains.”
According to a news article in the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey, Lichtenthal had been sentenced to 30 months in prison in the case. Then, after helping FBI agents crack a nationwide telemarketing fraud ring, he promised to reform his ways—even though he had a history of fraud, forgery and violation of probation charges.
The U.S. Attorney at the time urged the judge to be skeptical, saying, “This man is a con man, and I think he’s trying to con the court now.” But 18 months later, the U.S. Attorney petitioned the same judge to release Lichtenthal early from prison because of his continued cooperation.
So Lichtenthal got out of jail. Within months, he moved to Connecticut, married Liane Leedom, and pretended to be Dr. Michael Taylor.
Lichtenthal was immediately prosecuted by the Connecticut State’s Attorney for the criminal charges of sexual assault and practicing medicine without a license. The State’s Attorney filed no criminal charges against Leedom.
“They had no interest in prosecuting me,” Leedom says. “They thought I was a victim.”
The Office of the Chief State’s Attorney, however, includes a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. It investigates and prosecutes fraud committed by health care professionals and facilities that provide services paid for by Medicaid. Even before Lichtenthal was arrested, the fraud unit received a complaint from the Connecticut Department of Public Health and opened a case on Noah’s Ark.
The Department of Public Health, in the meantime, continued its investigation as well, and demanded that Claire Zang go to Hartford for yet another interview. By this time, Zang couldn’t remember what she knew before Lichtenthal was arrested, and what she learned afterwards. The investigators were still trying to get Zang to say she was afraid for her life. Here’s what Zang says about the experience:
The Department would not leave me alone until on my second visit to Hartford, exasperated, I told the Assistant D.A. that I couldn’t change “my story” because it was what happened, and I couldn’t change the truth, even if it meant that I would lose my license or go to jail. I haven’t heard anything from the State Department [of Public Health] about Barry Lichtenthal or Dr. Liane Leedom since.
The Department of Public Health did not allege that Dr. Leedom was aware that her ex-husband “”¦performed private ‘physical examinations’”¦” during which he “”¦sexually assaulted female patients.” If the Department of Health could believe that Dr. Leedom didn’t know about her ex-husband’s private physical exams and sexual assault, why couldn’t they believe that she didn’t know about his illegal practice of medicine?
The first patient lawsuit was filed against Lichtenthal and Leedom on May 28, 2003. Two months later, four more patients filed lawsuits. All of the plaintiffs were represented by the law firm of Marcus, Nasser and Hochberg, P.C., of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The attorneys drafted the four subsequent legal claims by copying and pasting content from one to the other. The complaints, and even the plaintiffs’ personal affidavits, are almost identical. For example, each of the four new plaintiffs testified as follows:
- It must be emphasized that all during my treatment with the defendants, I was in a bad state, desperate for help, and felt very vulnerable and alone. I was convinced by the defendant Lichtenthal and the defendant Leedom that unless I followed the protocol laid out for my treatment by defendant Lichtenthal, I would not break my drug dependency and would not be able to function normally in society.
- As a further consequence of realizing the fraud that had been worked upon me by the defendants, I lost all trust in doctors and other professionals. I am now uncertain as to how to proceed in an attempt to get my life back in order. Much more than just losing time in my fight for detoxification, I feel I have been used and taken advantage of in the worst possible manner by the defendants. The result has been a worsening of my condition and my mental state, and an inability to move forward. I feel that I need assistance in dealing with my depression and the shock of what I have been through because of the defendants’ misconduct.
Claire Zang—who still provided counseling to many former patients of Noah’s Ark—says those who sued tried to get others to join the lawsuit against Leedom. “Do you want to be in our lawsuit?” they asked other patients, according to Zang.
Many patients refused. “They said, ‘I don’t want to sue her, she helped me out,'” Zang relates. “They were very grateful to her.”
Eventually, eight patients joined the lawsuit—five women and three men. Leedom disputes many of their claims—particularly the notion that she was complicit in Lichtenthal’s actions. But to make sure there were assets in case they won, the plaintiffs’ attorneys filed liens against Leedom’s house for $1 million.
Fresh Start Substance Services was operating out of a few rooms in the Curcio Bail Bonds building. The brick structure was once a home—it has a vaguely Dutch Colonial style with a turret in the middle. Two illuminated circular yellow signs hang on the front of the house—one says, “Curcio Bail Bonds,” the other says, “Curcio Gold and Diamond Buyers.” A neon sign, related to the bail bonds service, reads, “Lowest rates allowed by law—open 24/7.” The building is located directly across the street from the Bridgeport Police Department.
In June 2003, Fresh Start hired a psychiatrist, Dr. Chiman Patel. Patel worked full time at the Hudson River Psychiatric Center in Poughkeepsie, New York. According to official documents, he had office hours at Fresh Start only on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Patel’s resume and credentials were included with the certificate of need application, which Fresh Start submitted to the Connecticut Department of Public Health on June 26, 2003.
The application included financial projections. Once Fresh Start was able to start dispensing methadone, the company anticipated earning net income—that’s profit—as follows:
The analyst from the Connecticut Office of Health Care Access who evaluated Fresh Start’s application determined that it was incomplete and requested more information. While the application process ground on, Zang provided psychotherapy to patients, and Patel treated those who needed psychiatric medication. Many of Leedom’s patients from Noah’s Ark became patients of Dr. Patel, providing income for Fresh Start.