A former Drexel University neurologist accused of exploiting his patients’ severe pain and addiction to medication to sexually abuse them over a 15-year span in Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey, now faces a federal indictment.
Ricardo Cruciani, 63, of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, was arrested Wednesday morning and charged with five counts of enticing and inducing individuals to travel interstate to engage in illegal sexual activity.
“Doctors like the defendant take an oath to do no harm,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said. “It is difficult to imagine conduct more anathema to that oath than exploiting patients’ vulnerability in order to sexually abuse them.”
Cruciani worked as a pain management doctor in New York from 2001 to 2014, in Hopewell, New Jersey, from 2013 to 2016, and in Philadelphia from 2016 to 2017.
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While in Philadelphia, Cruciani was the chief neurologist at Drexel University's medical school. He saw patients with rare, complicated syndromes and chronic, unrelenting pain.
His accusers say Cruciani used that specialized medical knowledge to trap them in long-term doctor-patient relationships marked by abuse, taking advantage of their desperation. Some of the women say Cruciani forced them to have intercourse and perform oral sex and penetrated them with his fingers.
According to the indictment, Cruciani used his position as a doctor as well as his ability to prescribe or withhold pain medication, including addictive opioids, to sexually abuse his female patients. Cruciani allegedly required his victims to travel to his medical offices and other locations for in-person appointments in order for them to get prescription refills. Officials said Cruciani then sexually abused those patients.
“As alleged, Ricardo Cruciani’s sexual abuse involved developing personal relationships with victims to engender trust, and prescribing addictive pain medication that caused his patients to become dependent on him as he engaged in a course of increasingly abusive conduct,” Williams said. “The alleged pattern of abuse in this case is outrageous, and Cruciani now faces federal charges for it.”
Cruciani first pleaded guilty in 2017 to groping seven of his patients while he worked at Drexel.
Under a plea agreement, he was sentenced to seven years' probation. He also had to register as a sex offender and forfeit his medical license.
In 2018 he was charged with raping another patient in New York City between 2005 and 2012.
The AP also reported in November 2017 that at least 17 women in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey had stepped forward to accuse Cruciani of sexual misconduct in encounters dating back at least a dozen years.
Later in 2018, more patients came forward accusing law enforcement officials in Philadelphia of burying nearly identical accusations against Cruciani.
Philadelphia police and prosecutors defend their handling of the investigation, noting Cruciani pleaded guilty to the earlier set of misdemeanor charges.
If you believe you were a victim of Cruciani’s abuse, please call the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York at 646-372-0364.