Investigations


Doctors and the opioid crisis: An AJC National Investigation

After Dr. Hasan Babaturk was fired from a medical practice for his erratic behavior, he took his prescription pad and came up with a new business model. He met patients in parking lots, shopping malls and motels, where they paid him $250 to $350 in cash. Babaturk then gave them what they wanted: prescriptions for high doses of oxycodone. “It’s easy money,” the doctor said, explaining...


Doctors cut plea deals for sex crimes

Doctors cut plea deals for sex crimes

Predator physician Larry Nassar has essentially received a life sentence for his guilty pleas in two Michigan state courts. In January, he received a sentence of 40 to 175 years after pleading guilty to seven assaults in Ingham County. In February, he was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison after pleading guilty to three sexual assaults in Eaton County. The sentences will run concurrently. Before...
He was caught on video, but Georgia doctor kept his medical license

He was caught on video, but Georgia doctor kept his medical license

Her family and friends said leave it alone, but Lisa Miller had other ideas. Convinced that her doctor had sexually violated her during her last visit, she believed she had to do something to expose him. She also knew she couldn’t let it come down to her word against his. So there she was, back in Dr. Daniel Tesfaye’s office at DeKalb Medical Center, this time with her cell phone in video...
Still forgiven: Doctors & Sex Abuse — AJC National Investigation

Still forgiven: Doctors & Sex Abuse — AJC National Investigation

A new national investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has uncovered 450 cases of doctors who were brought before medical regulators or courts for sexual misconduct or sex crimes in 2016 and 2017. In nearly half of those cases, the AJC found, the doctors remain licensed to practice medicine, no matter whether the victims were patients or employees, adults or children. Even some doctors criminally...
2016 investigation revealed broken system

2016 investigation revealed broken system

No one had accurate data on doctor sex abuse cases until the AJC in 2016 published a national investigation based on its review of thousands of medical board and court documents. The series revealed that disturbing cases — rapes by OB/GYNs, seductions by psychiatrists, molestations by pediatricians and fondling by anesthesiologists — happen far more often than anyone had acknowledged....
Threat of sanction on Atlanta home health agency lifted

Threat of sanction on Atlanta home health agency lifted

Thousands of Georgia patients struggling with debilitating medical problems depend on Visiting Nurse Health System to provide care for them in their own homes. But the nonprofit organization had been threatened this month with a cutoff in federal funding after inspections found issues said to potentially jeopardize some patients’ health and safety. In sampling cases of six of Visiting Nurse&rsquo...
Sean Hannity, a Trump defender, under scrutiny for real-estate deals

Sean Hannity, a Trump defender, under scrutiny for real-estate deals

On his Fox News program last summer, Sean Hannity effused praise for his guest, U.S. housing secretary Ben Carson. “I know you have done a good job,” Hannity said. “You are a good man.” Carson’s presence gave Hannity a chance to address a favorite topic: What he considers a low rate of home ownership in the United States. He noted that Carson’s agency, the Department...
After 42 years in state institutions, woman seeks a home of her own

After 42 years in state institutions, woman seeks a home of her own

Lucretia Felder was 2 when social workers placed her in foster care. Soon she moved on: to group homes, to a residential school for intellectually disabled children, to a “retardation center” for adults. She spent time in one state psychiatric hospital, then another, then one more. She went to jail. Finally, she ended up in a medical prison, an inmate never convicted of a crime. Georgia...
FDA to block bulk sales of pure caffeine, citing Georgia, Ohio deaths

FDA to block bulk sales of pure caffeine, citing Georgia, Ohio deaths

The morning that James Wade Sweatt first tried a powdered caffeine supplement, his heart went into cardiac arrest. For the next 11 days, he was in a coma. Despite efforts to save him, the 24-year-old Alpharetta engineer died. Now, nearly four years after his death, the federal Food and Drug Administration has announced a crackdown on highly concentrated caffeine products, saying they pose a significant...
Despite FDA crackdown, stem cell therapy still ‘wild west’

Despite FDA crackdown, stem cell therapy still ‘wild west’

The treatment seemed like an answer to prayers, courtesy of science. A shot of stem cells, the building blocks of all human tissues, could turn back the clock on Loy Roper’s aching back, sparing him a third spinal surgery. So he used a credit card to pay $9,300 to a Cherokee County pain clinic run mostly by chiropractors and attached to a 24/7 gym. Roper said a nurse had him lean over a table...
Atlanta Massage Envy therapist sexually assaulted client, lawsuit says

Atlanta Massage Envy therapist sexually assaulted client, lawsuit says

Massage Envy therapists from at least four metro Atlanta locations have now been accused of sexually violating women, with the latest lawsuit filed this week in Fulton County State Court.  The lawsuit alleges that near the end of a massage at the Massage Envy on Howell Mill Road in Atlanta in 2016, the therapist inserted his finger into the woman’s vagina.  “What are you doing!...
Tech coach’s accuser jailed on old Georgia warrant

Tech coach’s accuser jailed on old Georgia warrant

The Arizona man who accused Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner of sexually assaulting his girlfriend has been arrested as a fugitive from Georgia. Ron Bell, 51, of Tucson was arrested on a warrant issued by a judge in Cobb County in 2001, shortly after he moved out of Georgia without permission while serving a probated sentence for theft. Bell, the subject of a recent story in...
Pastner’s accuser jailed as a Georgia fugitive

Pastner’s accuser jailed as a Georgia fugitive

The Arizona man who accused Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner of sexually assaulting his girlfriend has been arrested as a fugitive from Georgia. Ron Bell, 51, of Tucson, was taken into custody Wednesday on a fugitive warrant from Georgia and is being held without bond, according to the Pima County, Arizona, sheriff’s department. Jail records do not indicate the nature...
Jury quickly says ‘not guilty’ in Georgia elections case 

Jury quickly says ‘not guilty’ in Georgia elections case 

It took a South Georgia jury just 20 minutes to find Olivia Pearson not guilty.  But the speedy verdict last month came at the end of a case that dragged on for years and came to be viewed by some as a blatant attempt to intimidate minority voters in a rural region of Georgia.  Pearson -- the first black woman to be elected to the Douglas City Commission, where she has served for 18 years...
Code of silence, weak laws protect sexual predator doctors

Code of silence, weak laws protect sexual predator doctors

Hundreds of girls and women sexually assaulted by Dr. Larry Nassar might have been spared, had University of Michigan employees who were told of his abuse decades earlier reported him to authorities.  Michigan’s remedy now, according to news reports about the USA Gymnastics doctor, is to require more people, including college employees, to report suspected child abuse, and to up the...
Water chief alleged chaos, mismanagement in DeKalb

Water chief alleged chaos, mismanagement in DeKalb

DeKalb County’s crippling water main break last week marked the latest large-scale failure of metro Atlanta’s fragile infrastructure, while amplifying a new chapter of turmoil in an agency that’s been at the center of a series of scandals for more than a decade. The break in an underground pipe off Buford Highway upended the lives of hundreds of thousands of people...
Pending court ruling could be pivotal in health care fraud cases

Pending court ruling could be pivotal in health care fraud cases

Elderly people were the target, and wherever they might congregate, the company dispatched recruiters. Workers rode along on Meals on Wheels deliveries and went door-to-door in government-subsidized housing. Then they’d pitch what sounded like home care services paid for by the government. Instead, the elderly were being enrolled in Medicare-funded hospice based on what the government says were...
AJC Watchdog: Why the state cut the mic on the Ga. gun control rally

AJC Watchdog: Why the state cut the mic on the Ga. gun control rally

Organizers of a massive gun-control rally outside of the State Capitol last week struggled to be heard. That’s because their sound system didn’t work — the electrical outlets at Liberty Plaza were dead. As more than 1,500 strained to hear speakers, longtime State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, who attended the rally, did what politicians do these days when they get angry...
Atlanta prison too harsh for Russian hacker

Atlanta prison too harsh for Russian hacker

What with the booze smuggling, taxi service for escapees and takeout food from nearby restaurants, the federal prison camp in Atlanta doesn’t exactly define “hard time.” Inmates would come and go from the minimum-security camp adjacent to the federal penitentiary -- at least until the AJC ran a story about how inmates were breaking out and sneaking back in with contraband. Apparently...
Bill would suspend sexually abusive doctors in Georgia

Bill would suspend sexually abusive doctors in Georgia

Doctors who sexually assault a patient would face a required license suspension or revocation under a new bill introduced at the Georgia General Assembly.  House Bill 1000, sponsored by Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, would also require the state’s health care professionals to report a physician they believe has committed a sexual assault on a patient.  “My opinion is that any...
Booting bill gets unsympathetic hearing in House committee

Booting bill gets unsympathetic hearing in House committee

Car booters got a rough ride in a state House committee considering legislation  to legalize the practice. The industry wanted booting legalized throughout the state and charge a $85 fee. Instead, the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee said booting could only be legal where jurisdictions explicitly allow it. And it set the maximum fee at $65. Local ordinances could be even...
New Orleans lawyer to lead investigation of Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner

New Orleans lawyer to lead investigation of Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner

A New Orleans-based lawyer is leading an investigation into allegations that Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner sexually assaulted an Arizona woman. Tech hired attorney Scott Schneider of the law firm Fisher Phillips to lead the review, announced last week after the woman, Jennifer Pendley, and her boyfriend, Ron Bell, sued Pastner. The coach had earlier sued Pendley and Bell,...
Larry Nassar isn’t the only bad doc at the Tucson pen

Larry Nassar isn’t the only bad doc at the Tucson pen

At Larry Nassar’s new residence – the federal penitentiary in Tucson – he’s not the only inmate with both a medical degree and a horrifying criminal history. Nassar, the doctor who was recently convicted for sexually abusing young gymnasts, is now at the same prison where Dr. Craig A. Morgenstern is serving time for his sex crimes. Morgenstern, who practiced in Washington...
The coach and the ex-con

The coach and the ex-con

For his 40th birthday last fall, Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner got a unique gift from his biggest fan. It was a limited-edition T-shirt bearing some of Pastner’s favorite motivational phrases: “Positive energy only.” “Attitude of gratitude.” “Hope is a bad strategy.” And this: “There are no secrets.” Just six days later, the same...
Ga. doctor under DEA scrutiny over prescribing of weight-loss drug

Ga. doctor under DEA scrutiny over prescribing of weight-loss drug

A high-profile Georgia weight-loss doctor is closing her practice and facing scrutiny from federal authorities following an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation of the sale of a prescription diet drug over the internet. A spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Atlanta said the agency is looking closely at Dr. Jan McBarron as a result of the newspaper’s December...
Watchdog: if your car’s been booted in Georgia, read this

Watchdog: if your car’s been booted in Georgia, read this

Several months ago, I wrote about a legal effort to end booting as a parking enforcement practice in Georgia. Since then I’ve gotten a regular stream of complaints from metro area drivers who are enraged at booting companies and the businesses that hire them. I told many of them I would keep an eye out to see if state lawmakers addressed the issue. They have, but not as I expected. ...
Real estate agent bilked investors of millions, feds say

Real estate agent bilked investors of millions, feds say

Every which way she could, an Atlanta real estate agent bilked a group of foreign investors out of millions of dollars, the government alleges in a criminal complaint.  She embezzled some $930,000. Inflated sale prices to pocket another $1.1 million. But the big money, a criminal complaint alleges, came from even more brazen schemes. She fleeced investors of $8 million with phantom property sales...
Georgia man sues Amazon after hoverboard fire destroys home

Georgia man sues Amazon after hoverboard fire destroys home

Irvin R. Love was searching Amazon for the perfect Christmas gift for his girlfriend’s daughter when a hoverboard popped up at a bargain price. But the $264 hoverboard that was supposed to make Christmas 2015 special ended up torching Love’s Georgia home and leaving him so badly injured that doctors resorted to placing cadaver skin over his severe burns, according to a new lawsuit. The...
How much did Gov. Deal know about his state dental board pick?

How much did Gov. Deal know about his state dental board pick?

Dale G. Mayfield, an executive for the Kool Smiles chain of dental clinics, filled out an application to be on Georgia’s dental licensing board in February 2016. Three days later, Gov. Nathan Deal issued an order appointing him to the Georgia Board of Dentistry. “Mayfield is the chief dental officer of Kool Smiles,” Deal’s news release said. But if anyone had bothered...
Georgia Tech investigating sexual assault claims against coach Josh Pastner

Georgia Tech investigating sexual assault claims against coach Josh Pastner

Georgia Tech opened an investigation Friday into allegations its men’s basketball coach sexually assaulted an Arizona woman. The school said it would hire an “outside, independent” investigator to look into charges against second-year coach Josh Pastner. He was accused in a lawsuit filed Thursday of assaulting or harassing the woman more than a dozen times in 2016. “We...
Governor’s office silent on how board pick was vetted

Governor’s office silent on how board pick was vetted

The accusations in the media and in lawsuits were shocking: Needlessly drilling into baby teeth. Filling children’s mouths with stainless-steel crowns they didn’t need. Strapping patients down on boards, so their writhing wouldn’t interfere with the pace of work — all so the company could soak up as many Medicaid dollars as possible. “My baby was in pain. And she was...
Fayette 911 center controversy debated in marathon meeting

Fayette 911 center controversy debated in marathon meeting

Fayette County administrators are standing behind their embattled 911 director, Bernard “Buster” Brown following a 7-hour meeting Thursday where current 911 employees defended him against charges of harassment. Others, including former center employees, restated their complaints against Brown, signaling the controversy is not over yet. The meeting came amid complaints from former...
A Georgia mother’s struggle to unmask a beloved coach as a predator

A Georgia mother’s struggle to unmask a beloved coach as a predator

At first, she thought of Ron Gorman as a godsend.  They met when she was recently separated from her husband and new to Cobb County. Her son, who was starting middle school, had joined the wrestling team on which Gorman was a volunteer coach. Immediately, the sympathetic Gorman seemed to adopt her son into his own brood, including him in family dinners and day trips, paying for things she couldn&rsquo...
Hundreds of Georgia cops suspended over training shortfalls

Hundreds of Georgia cops suspended over training shortfalls

Policing the police in Georgia is a busy job this time of year. Nearly 500 law enforcement officers across the state are receiving emergency suspension letters this week from the agency that certifies law enforcement officers. When they hit mailboxes, the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training  (P.O.S.T.) council expects to hear from scores of panicked officers concerned about losing their...
Fayette commission to discuss allegations of 911 director’s conduct

Fayette commission to discuss allegations of 911 director’s conduct

Former employees of the Fayette County 911 Center have come forward with claims of verbally abusive, harassing and degrading treatment they received at the hands of the center’s current director, Bernard “Buster” Brown. The controversy around Brown’s management of the center became public in December when former employees brought their complaints to the Board of Commissioners...
Did Georgia go easy on a dangerous doctor?

Did Georgia go easy on a dangerous doctor?

The same week that Dr. Larry Nassar’s abuse of young gymnasts made national headlines — with one victim after another coming forward to publicly describe his sexual abuse — a former Georgia doctor sat in a courtroom hundreds of miles away. Like Nassar, Dr. Paul Harnetty was facing charges involving the way he touched patients during medical exams. The ob-gyn was practicing...
For total power loss, airport says it has a plan, but it doesn't *have* the plan

For total power loss, airport says it has a plan, but it doesn't *have* the plan

It's official. The plan for a total power outage that Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport insisted it had prior to December's 11-hour blackout is not in the airport's possession. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked to see it, under the state's open records act, after an airport news release said the plan was contained in a standard operating procedure chapter called "emergency...
Prison hospital doctor resigns, cites security, patient care concerns

Prison hospital doctor resigns, cites security, patient care concerns

The unsafe and unsanitary conditions at Georgia’s state prison hospital have caused one of its most experienced physicians to quit with a blistering letter that details the facility’s problems and describes how he faced “smoldering and overt hostility” when he tried to correct them. Dr. Timothy Young informed his supervisors at Georgia Correctional HealthCare of his decision...
Amid Medicaid fraud case, GA put accused dentist on a regulatory panel

Amid Medicaid fraud case, GA put accused dentist on a regulatory panel

"The fox guards the henhouse" in Georgia. That’s how a critic sees the appointment of a top officer of a Marietta-based company to a state disciplinary board. In 2016, Gov. Nathan Deal put Dale G. Mayfield on the Georgia Board of Dentistry, where he helped make decisions about licensing, sanctioning and regulating fellow dentists. But while he served, Mayfield – chief dental...
Watchdog: Alt-right activist gives Trump mixed first-year review

Watchdog: Alt-right activist gives Trump mixed first-year review

President Donald Trump was accused of racism and appealing to white supremacists throughout his 2016 campaign, and those accusations continued through his first year in office. But inside the alt-right — a loosely defined movement of young, white racial ideologues — activists are still waiting on the president to make good on promised massive deportations and a wall along the southern...
Governor forces dentist off state regulatory board

Governor forces dentist off state regulatory board

For years, his company has been under fire over allegations its dentists performed painful, unnecessary work on children in a scheme to bilk Medicaid. Yet Kool Smiles’ chief dental officer, Dale G. Mayfield, since 2016 had a say in how dentists were being licensed and regulated all over Georgia. Then Tuesday, Gov. Nathan Deal asked for and got Mayfield’s resignation. The action came as...
The agony of ER waits: Flu season is making them worse

The agony of ER waits: Flu season is making them worse

Headed to the ER? Well, so are a lot of other people, with one of the worst flu seasons in years sickening people across Georgia. So, pack a sandwich and think about bringing a pillow, since your wait for treatment in one of Atlanta's ERs may be a long one. At WellStar Health System, which operates hospitals across metro Atlanta, its emergency rooms are currently seeing 27 to 30 percent more flu patients...
Guns are legal in parks. So why did police ban them at Peach Drop?

Guns are legal in parks. So why did police ban them at Peach Drop?

Atlanta city officials had two concerns as they prepared for the first New Year’s Eve Peach Drop at Woodruff Park. First, it was going to be bone-chillingly cold. Second, the event was a soft target — an attractive venue for terrorists, foreign and domestic. As a result, officials told revelers to bundle up and abide by security restrictions. Attendees were subject to search and all...
Whistleblower cases cost Fulton taxpayers $575,000, and counting

Whistleblower cases cost Fulton taxpayers $575,000, and counting

It was a brazen scheme by a mid-level Fulton County employee to help fund a side business with taxpayer money. Nicola Hosier, a former financial systems supervisor in the Human Services Department, used her county-issued credit card to buy linens, chairs, place settings, appliances, silverware, champagne flutes and other items for her private event-planning business, Exquisite Events Atlanta LLC,...
More AJC Investigates Stories