AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Immigrant moms say Chamblee pediatrician's abuses didn't stop with them

Their children's pediatrician, Dr. José A. Rios, had them living in fear, the women told police.

They worried that he knew where they lived. They worried about lacking immigration papers and what might happen if they reported him. They worried about what their husbands would think. They feared a backlash in their immigrant communities if they pointed fingers at a respected doctor for a popular neighborhood clinic.

So for years, more than two dozen women kept quiet about what was happening inside the Primary Care Center of Chamblee, a clinic run by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta in the Plaza Fiesta shopping center.

When they finally did come forward, they told police stories of a Spanish-speaking doctor who grabbed and groped them in front of their children, often making lewd comments and propositioning them, according to police records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. One woman said he threatened her not to tell anyone – saying that no one would believe an illegal alien, that he had all her children's information, and that something bad could happen to her or her family members, according to notes of her interview.

But some of the moms told police about other abuses occurring in that clinic, the AJC's review of the case found, things that didn't come out at the time of Rios' publicized arrest and which aren't reflected in his pending misdemeanor charges.

Police haven't looked into those allegations, the AJC found, despite several women voicing them in police interviews conducted with Spanish translators.

“I feel like they’re ignoring what we’ve been saying to them,” Maria Becerra-Cedillo told the AJC. “Like they’re only taking one part and the other part they’re covering up.”

You can read the AJC's in-depth update on the Rios case here.

The case was one of thousands that the AJC examined in a nationwide, groundbreaking investigative series on doctors and sexual abuse, which you can read more about here.


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About the Author

Johnny Edwards is a member of the AJC’s investigative team, focusing on the private sector and state and federal regulation. He has worked at the newspaper since 2010.