TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (WFLA) — A Tarpon Springs pain clinic manager accused of extorting patients for sex has been charged with two additional crimes.
According to an arrest affidavit from the Tarpon Springs Police Department, Christopher Ferguson, 53, was arrested on Wednesday for the third time on charges related to Phoenix Pain Management Clinic.
Ferguson is now charged with six counts of extortion, one count of attempted extortion and two counts of attempted sexual battery after patients accused him of exploiting his position as a care provider to get patients to perform sexual favors.
Police said that despite Ferguson not having any medical credentials, he had full control over protocol that should have been handled by a licensed doctor, including interpreting drug tests and labeling patients as high risk.
In an arrest report for an attempted extortion charge filed Wednesday, during an appointment in Aug. 2021, the victim claimed Ferguson told her she failed a drug test and would face consequences “if the FBI” was tipped off about the results. Police said Ferguson was uncomfortable with her young child being present during the appointment and allegedly told her “I can make this all go away” 15 to 20 times.
The victim claimed Ferguson was sitting close to her while saying this, and “kept grabbing his genitals blatantly over his clothing”. Police said the victim also told them Ferguson wanted to give her a massage, but she refused.
In a second arrest report filed Wednesday, a patient accused Ferguson of trying to make her remove her clothing to check for a “wire” and touching her inappropriately during an appointment in June 2021. Like the other victims, she said Ferguson allegedly used a drug test as leverage to get her to perform sexual favors.
The victim told police Ferguson made her leave her phone and service dog elsewhere so she would not bring them into the appointment. Police said Ferguson allegedly locked the door and accused the patient of working with the Drug Enforcement Agency, asking her to remove her clothes so he could search for a “wire”.
When she refused, Ferguson allegedly grabbed her waistband and looked down at her genitals and rear end, according to the arrest report. Police said the victim claimed Ferguson frisked her over her clothing, touching her genital area and inner thighs.
According to the arrest report, Ferguson told the patient “we’ll discuss payment later” and laughed. Police said this was referring to sexual favors.
Police said Ferguson threatened to end the patient’s care if she refused to take another test. She did, and Phoenix Pain Management allegedly claimed she failed the test, but a test at an outside lab reportedly came back clean.
The clinic was ordered to cease operations on Monday after a federal court enacted a temporary restraining order. The U.S. Department of Justice said Phoenix Medical Management Care Centers Inc., its employees, and a doctor will be prohibited from “administering, dispensing or distributing any controlled substances, including issuing prescriptions for opioids” following the arrests Ferguson and pediatrician Dr. Vivian Herrero.
According to arrest affidavits from the Tarpon Springs Police Department and Drug Enforcement Agency, Herrero, 43, was only licensed to perform medical services for children at the time she was hired, but was acting as a pain management physician for adults. She was arrested on accessory charges after victims claimed she did nothing to help after they showed her proof of Ferguson’s alleged abuse.
An unsealed federal complaint also mentioned that two patients died soon after getting prescribed opioids by Herrero, with drug toxicity allegedly being a factor in their deaths.