Category Archives: psychologist

Prison psychologist engaged in affair with “sexy” convicted murderer

SHE thought he was “sexy” and wanted to be with him forever. The only problem was she was his psychologist and he was a convicted murderer.

Bobbie Bergmeier met the inmate — who can be referred to only as Client A — after she began working as a psychologist at Junee Correctional Centre in the NSW Riverina region in April 2010.

At the time, Client A was serving the final years of his 21-year sentence for murder and malicious wounding.

The Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) alleges Ms Bergmeier began having intimate telephone conversations with him, declaring “she loved him and couldn’t wait to be with him” and “he was sexy and she wanted him forever”.

She resigned from the prison job in August 2011 but continued to stay in contact with him, visiting his family and friends, and applying to be his sponsor for weekend leave.

Client A was serving the final years of a 21 year sentence for murder and malicious wound

In a bid to cover up her relationship, Ms Bergmeier also used a colleague’s password to log into Client A’s case notes and change them to create “distance” between herself and him, the HCCC alleged.

In a judgment handed down on Wednesday, the Civil and Administrative Tribunal NSW found her guilty of professional misconduct, saying she “has been involved in a serious boundary violation and placed her client at risk”.

Although Client A was serving time for murder, the tribunal said he had been in jail all of his adult life with little opportunity to explore relationships.

He was “needy and dependent and psychologically vulnerable”, it heard.

Asked why she didn’t end the relationship when the stakes were so high, Ms Bergmeier told the tribunal her feelings were “so strong” that she didn’t think to.

The relationship started in prison but Client A and Ms Bergmeier are believed to still be

The relationship started in prison but Client A and Ms Bergmeier are believed to still be seeing each other. Picture:

Ms Bergmeier said she accepted responsibility for her actions and acknowledged that what she did was wrong.

She understood her conduct had breached her professional code of ethics.

The tribunal cancelled her registration, saying: “Her insight into the seriousness of her conduct and its impact on her client, her colleagues and the profession as a whole remains questionable.” Client A was released on parole in March.

Ms Bergmeier is now enrolled in a degree in primary school teaching at Charles Sturt University.

It is believed the pair are continuing to see each other.

Source: “Prison psychologist Bobbie Bergmeier guilty of misconduct over relationship with murderer inmate,” News.com.au, July 17, 2014.

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Psychologist John Cicconi loses license for sexual and abusive relationship with patient

A long-time psychologist who had an intimate and physically abusive relationship with a mentally ill patient has been de-registered.

Vincent Cicconi, who practiced in Moonee Ponds, was reprimanded and found guilty of professional misconduct for the three-year relationship with a female patient 20 years his junior.

The patient, who cannot be named, first met Mr Cicconi in April 2008 for treatment for her depression, anxiety and personality disorder, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard.

The patient abused alcohol, ecstasy and cannabis and Mr Cicconi described her to Centrelink as “basically homeless” and “unable to look for work, given her mental state”, the tribunal heard.

After the third consultation, the relationship between Mr Cicconi and his patient became “unorthodox” when he invited her to have lunch with him at a cafe. This was followed by repeated shared meals, him giving her lifts home after consultations, going to the cinema, restaurants and concerts together and him giving her money.

The professional relationship ended after about two months but the sexual relationship began a short time later.

The Australian Psychological Society’s code of ethics states that psychologists cannot have sex with a former patient for at least two years after the professional relationship has ended, and even then, it must be discussed with a senior psychologist. The patient is also encouraged to have independent counselling.

Mr Cicconi allowed his patient to stay overnight at his house and at the end of 2008, she moved into his home for about two months.

In their recently published judgment, VCAT deputy president Heather Lambrick and members John Farhall and Marian Power said the relationship between Mr Cicconi and his patient was “erratic and tumultuous” and “characterised by conflict, recriminations, separations and reconciliations”.

In March 2010, during an argument at his house, Mr Cicconi punched the patient in the face. Police later successfully sought an intervention order on her behalf against Mr Cicconi.

In February 2011, the pair had a “physical conflict” which left her with a bloody hand. Mr Cicconi was granted a diversion on an assault charge in court, meaning no conviction was recorded.

Despite this, contact between Mr Cicconi and the patient continued, and in 2012, they met again and had sex.

Months earlier, Mr Cicconi lied to the Psychology Board of Australia when it asked him for contact details for the patient.

The tribunal, describing the patient as “extremely vulnerable”, said the violence, sexual relationship and living arrangements between Mr Cicconi and the patient were “reprehensible”.

“Mr Cicconi should have realised that his own objectivity and capacity to provide appropriate treatment and care would be impaired,” the tribunal said. “The psychologist and patient relationship should have been immediately terminated with appropriate arrangements put in place for (the patient’s) ongoing care. This did not occur.”

The tribunal said that although it accepted Mr Cicconi was not adequately qualified to deal with the patient’s complex needs, he should have referred her on to someone who was, and not pursued a relationship.

It added that it could not rationalise the patient’s vulnerability and the inherent power imbalance in the relationship and that the entire profession was brought into disrepute when practitioners exploited professional relationships for their own advantage.

Mr Cicconi was reprimanded and his registration was cancelled, effective mid-May. He is not allowed to reapply for registration for 15 months after the cancellation begins, and will need to show that the conduct will not be repeated.

Source: Adrian Lowe, “Sex with patient costs psychologist his job,” The Age, April 30, 2013.

California psychologist John Visher arrested on child sex abuse and child porn charges

CAPITOLA, California — A 65-year-old psychologist was arrested Wednesday at his La Selva Beach home on suspicion of child sex abuse and child porn possession.

Capitola police received a report in January that Dr. John Visher possibly had committed lewd acts with a minor who was his client at the time. According to the criminal complaint, the incidents are alleged to have taken place sometime between September 2009 and December 2009, prosecutor Michael Gilman said.

The girl was 8 years old at the time.

During the course of the police investigation, a search warrant was executed at Visher’s home and his office on Bay Avenue in Capitola.

Due to potential patient-therapist privilege issues, the court appointed a special investigator to review all items seized during the investigation. Members of the Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office assisted.

Visher was arrested by Capitola police detectives Wednesday. He’s charged with committing lewd acts with a child younger than 14, displaying harmful matter to a child and four counts of possession of child pornography.

Visher was taken into custody and booked into County Jail without incident. He was out on bail as of Wednesday night and is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

Authorities have notified the state licensing board that oversees licensing of psychologists of the investigation and the arrest.

Visher was first licensed to practice psychology in California in August 1982, according to the California Board of Psychology. He does not have any prior administrative citations or disciplinary actions on record with the agency.

The investigation is ongoing, according to Capitola detective Sarah Ryan.

Source: Jessica M. Pasko, “Capitola psychologist arrested on suspicion of child molestation,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, September 20, 2012.

Maine psychologist had sex with patient and billed her insurance for it

AUGUSTA, Maine – Attorney General William J. Schneider announced today that former psychologist John A. Keefe, 60, of Veazie, pled guilty to one count of Class B theft by deception and one count of Class C gross sexual assault for engaging in sexual acts with a client and billing MaineCare for mental health therapy services for that client.

Penobscot County Superior Court Justice William R. Anderson sentenced Keefe on each count to three years imprisonment with all but 120 days suspended and two years of probation, to be served concurrently. He also required Keefe to pay $14,806.52 restitution to MaineCare.

From 2007 to 2010, Keefe engaged in sexual acts with a female client while claiming to provide mental health therapy to that client. Some of the sexual acts occurred in Keefe’s office at Columbia Psychology Associates in Bangor during mental health therapy sessions that he billed to MaineCare. On June 22, 2010, Keefe surrendered his license to practice psychology during the pendency of the criminal action through entry of a consent agreement with the Maine Board of Examiners of Psychologists.

“Medical professionals in Maine are held to high ethical standards and conduct that exploits patients is a breach of trust,” said Attorney General Schneider. “Committing sexual assault of a patient is not only immoral; it is illegal and punishable by jail time.”

This case was investigated by the Bangor Police Department and Attorney General Schneider’s Criminal Division, Healthcare Crimes Unit, with assistance from the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit. Assistant Attorney General Valerie Wright handled this matter for the Healthcare Crimes Unit.

The Healthcare Crimes Unit is the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit for the State of Maine charged with investigating and prosecuting financial fraud and other crimes committed by MaineCare providers or their employees, and investigating and prosecuting abuse, neglect or exploitation that occurs in health care facilities or is committed by health care providers.

Source: “Former Bangor Psychologist Sentenced for Sexual Assault and MaineCare Fraud,” press release of the Maine Attorney General, August 31, 2012.

Court reinstates sex charges against psychologist Burton Hollenbeck

Keene, New Hampshire psychologist Burton Hollenbeck is was indicted in April 2010 for engaging in sex with a former patient–a married woman. The state of New Hampshire is among 20 or so states that have a law that makes it a crime for a psychotherapist to engage in sexual contact with patient or formal patient. Hollenbeck moved to dismiss the indictments, arguing the state violated both his state and federal rights to substantive due process because it “criminalizes the private sexual conduct of consenting adults.” However, the law makes it clear that psychotherapy patients, by reason of their vulnerable position, are not capable of consent. The law makes it a criminal act for the therapist to engage the patient for up to a year after the termination of the doctor-patient relationship. Hollenbeck violated this but argued that the law is arbitrary. The Superior Court judge agreed with Hollenbeck’s argument and dismissed the charges against him in December 2010.

The prosecution then appealed.

In its 3-1 decision Wednesday (September 5), the New Hampshire Supreme Court said the state has a legitimate interest in protecting people whose ability to consent to sexual contact may be compromised by the inherent nature of the treatment relationship, and in maintaining the integrity of mental health professionals. The court reinstated 30 charges against Hollenbeck.

 

The case of a psychologist with a practice in Keene who was accused of having sex with a former patient is headed back to court.

Burton G. Hollenbeck Jr., 58, of Richmond faced 30 counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault before a Cheshire County Superior Court judge dismissed the charges.

Prosecutors appealed to the N.H. Supreme Court, which reversed the decision in a ruling released Wednesday.

Hollenbeck was accused of engaging in sexual conduct with the woman less than a year after her therapy with him ended, which violates state law, according to court documents.

A Cheshire County grand jury indicted Hollenbeck in April 2010 on 30 counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault between Feb. 1, 2008, and Dec. 9, 2008.

He agreed to turn in his license to practice mental health therapy in 2010, after the charges were filed.

Hollenbeck moved to dismiss the indictments in December 2010, arguing the state violated both his state and federal rights to substantive due process because it “criminalizes the private sexual conduct of consenting adults,” according to the Supreme Court decision.

A Cheshire County Superior Court judge agreed with Hollenbeck’s argument and dismissed all 30 charges in December 2010. The state then appealed.

In its 3-1 decision Wednesday, the N.H. Supreme Court said the state has a legitimate interest in protecting people whose ability to consent to sexual contact may be compromised by the inherent nature of the treatment relationship, and in maintaining the integrity of mental health professionals.

A one-year post treatment limit is imposed to protect patients’ ability to consent to sexual contact with their therapist, the N.H. Supreme Court said.

Hollenbeck argued that the one-year limitation is arbitrary.

The Supreme Court decided Hollenbeck did not meet his burden of proof and he has “no constitutionally protected right at stake.”

The Supreme Court then reversed the Superior Court decision, thereby reinstating all 30 charges.

Justice Gary Hicks disagreed with the majority decision made by Justice James Bassett and retired Justices Richard Galway and Edward Fitzgerald.

Hicks’s dissenting opinion was based on his belief that the Legislature went too far in enacting the law. He called the government intrusion into Hollenbeck’s private life “severe.”

Hollenbeck’s attorney, Cathy J. Green, said in a statement, “We are disappointed with the court’s majority opinion and agree with the strong dissent. We are confident that ultimately our client will be exonerated.”

According to two separate civil lawsuits filed against Hollenbeck in 2009 in Cheshire County Superior Court by the alleged victim and her husband, Hollenbeck provided therapy to both.

In June 2001 the alleged victim’s husband sought Hollenbeck for counseling, according to the husband’s lawsuit.

When Hollenbeck determined the husband didn’t need treatment, he terminated therapy.

In December 2004, the alleged victim and her husband began seeing Hollenbeck for marriage counseling.

Hollenbeck asked the alleged victim to have one-on-one therapy sessions with him after he learned that she had issues stemming from her past, according to both lawsuits.

Shortly after the wife started her private sessions with Hollenbeck, the doctor bought her golf equipment, gold and pearl earrings, paid her auto insurance, gave her $200 toward a trip to Europe and paid $50 for her monthly phone bill between March and November 2008, according to the husband’s lawsuit.

The wife and Hollenbeck became involved in a romantic relationship in February 2008, the husband’s lawsuit said.

In October of that year, Hollenbeck’s office manager blew the whistle on the alleged affair, but the wife and Hollenbeck denied the allegations, according to the lawsuit.

In December 2008, the wife came forward and admitted she was having an affair with Hollenbeck, according to the husband’s lawsuit. She then ended the relationship, according to her lawsuit.

When the wife told Hollenbeck to leave her alone, he then proceeded to contact her with harassing phone calls and texts, and stalked her, according to her lawsuit.

The alleged victim then sought an emergency order of protection against Hollenbeck in December 2008, according to the husband’s lawsuit.

Both the alleged victim and her husband are seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation for emotional distress, mental anguish, therapy, lost wages, legal fees and other damages, losses or expenses they say they suffered as a result of the alleged affair and Hollenbeck’s “wanton, malicious and oppressive” actions, according to both lawsuits.

The lawsuits have been suspended until Hollenbeck’s criminal case concludes.

Hollenbeck’s case will resume in Cheshire County Superior Court.

“We will pick up the case where we left off,” said Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis C. Hogan.

The N.H. Attorney General’s Office appointed the Hillsborough County Attorney to prosecute the case because of Hollenbeck’s contacts in Cheshire County, Hogan said.

Source: Danielle Rivard, “Local therapist’s sex charges reinstated,” New Hampshire Sentinel Source, September 6, 2012.

Accused psychologist pimp stops seeing patients

An Exeter psychologist charged with running a prostitution operation out of his Portsmouth apartment has agreed to stop seeing patients.

Alexander Marino had his psychology license suspended by the New Hampshire Board of Mental Health after his arrest earlier this month.

During a recent hearing in front of the state Board of Mental Health about the suspension, Marino agreed to stop seeing patients, the Associated Press reported.

Marino, 38, of 565 Sagamore Ave., Portsmouth, is currently free on bail.

According to Portsmouth Police, Marino was using his apartment to run a prostitution operation with links to Manchester and Portland, Maine since October. Police said men would arrive at Sagamore Court, hang out a the pool and enter Marino’s apartment with an assortment of scantilly-clad women to receive services. Marino was also charged with marijuana possession.

Marino, Brooke Parent, 21, of Manchester, and Jim Parra, 22, of Kittery, Maine, were all charged with prostitution following a police investigation on Aug. 4. Marino turned himself into Portsmouth Police on Aug. 7 after an arrest warrant was issued. Marino, Parent and Parra are scheduled to be arraigned in Portsmouth Circuit Court on Oct. 1. and Marino remains free after posting $1,000 cash bail and $15,000 personal recognizance.

Source: Jason Claffey, “Accused Psychologist/Pimp Stops Practice,” Exeter Patch, August 29, 2012.

Accused pimp psychologist Alexander Marino found, arrested

An Exeter (New Hampshire) psychologist charged with running a prostitution ring in Portsmouth turned himself in to police today.

Alexander Marino, who has an office at 24 Front St. in Exeter, has been wanted by police since Saturday. He faces prostitution and drug charges.

Marino, 38, is now being held on $16,000 bail. He will likely appear in court tomorrow.

Police issued an arrest warrant for Marino Saturday after an investigation alleged he allowed a prostitution operation to be run out of his apartment at 595 Sagamore Ave. in Portsmouth.

Last week Portsmouth police arrested a woman on a prostitution charge when they discovered her in Marino’s apartment with drugs. A man who was also in the apartment climbed out a window and jumped while holding an opened condom, according to Portsmouth police Capt. Corey MacDonald.

Police also arrested Jim Parra, 22, of Kittery, Maine, who turned himself in Saturday.

Police said the prostitution operation may extend into Manchester and the Portsmouth, Maine area. It was advertised on the website http://www.backpage.com, police said.