TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (WFLA) — A pediatrician at a Tarpon Springs pain clinic was accused of portraying herself as a pain management doctor and standing by as the manager extorted women for sex.
According to arrest affidavits from the Tarpon Springs Police Department and Drug Enforcement Agency, Vivian Maria Herrero, 43, was only licensed to perform medical services for children at the time she was hired by Phoenix Medical Management, but was acting as a pain management physician for adults.
The clinic manager, Christopher Ferguson, was arrested in January on an extortion charge after he allegedly he told a patient her drug screen came back positive, but he would “fix” the results in exchange for sexual favors. Just hours after his last court appearance in June, police rearrested Ferguson on five counts of extortion and two counts of attempted sexual battery involving five additional victims.
Police said Ferguson had sole control over “protocol” that should have been performed by a physician, like interpreting drug tests and labelling patients as “high risk”. Herrero continued to prescribe opioids to them, while Ferguson maintained control over their care and allegedly used that power to coerce patients.
According to the arrest report, multiple victims showed Herrero recordings of Ferguson’s alleged abuse as well as clean drug screens from other laboratories. Police said Herrero allowed the alleged extortion to continue for months, while the manager had full power to end patients’ care at his discretion.
Herrero was charged with 4 counts of accessory before the fact and 3 counts of accessory after the fact in connection to the alleged extortion. She also faces a federal charge from the Drug Enforcement Administration for violation of the Prescribing Practitioners Act. DEA officials accused her of “masquerading” as a pain management doctor, despite not being certified.
Herrero was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on Friday. She has since bonded out.