A Spring Hill doctor was arrested Tuesday and charged with having sex with a patient while she was heavily sedated in his office on Cortez Boulevard.
A. Hussam Armashi, of 4547 Lake in the Woods Drive, turned himself in at the Hernando County Jail after learning of the warrant for his arrest. Armashi, 54, runs Active Pain Control Center at 12228 Cortez Blvd. and has staff privileges at three Hernando County hospitals.
Sheriff's investigators said Armashi had sex with the 35-year-old woman on three occasions between February 1998 and January 1999. Armashi gave the patient narcotic pain medication that caused her to pass out during her treatments and then had sex with her, investigators said. The woman had sought Armashi's help for chronic pain after a car crash.
Armashi denied the allegations Wednesday.
"I am innocent of the accusation made against me and I have all faith and confidence that I will be fully exonerated," he said in a written statement.
Detectives think Armashi may have assaulted others, sheriff's Lt. Joe Paez said.
"From our investigation, we believe there may be other patients out there who are hesitant to come forward," he said. "We hope they will call us."
Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto would not comment on whether his office has investigated other complaints against Armashi or whether the office will file additional charges.
The Times is withholding the name of the woman because of the nature of the charges. Reached at her home Wednesday, she said she could not yet comment on the case but that it had been "extremely difficult" for her.
Armashi was charged with three counts of sexual battery on a person incapacitated by an intoxicating substance. He was released on $30,000 bail about a hour after arriving at the jail.
If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each count. Also, the Florida Board of Medicine could suspend or revoke his license.
Armashi keeps an office at Hernando Medical Park, which consists of two tidy, cream-colored buildings that house family physicians, a speech therapist, a psychiatrist, a urologist and other doctors.
Armashi has been licensed to practice medicine in Florida since 1994. He has staff privileges at Oak Hill and Brooksville and Spring Hill Regional hospitals, as well as at the Hernando Endoscopy and Surgery Center. Staff privileges means he can admit patients and have physicians recommend patients to him.
Hospital spokeswomen said Armashi did not frequently practice at their facilities and that they had had no problems with him. They requested information on his arrest from the Sheriff's Office on Wednesday and said they would look into the charges.
No patients have logged complaints against Armashi with the Agency for Health Care Administration, a state agency that investigates complaints against doctors. Also, no insurance company has reported paying damages for a malpractice suit against Armashi in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Insurance Division of Consumer Services.
Records show that Armashi has not been arrested before in Florida.
Armashi, originally from Syria, graduated from Al-Azhar University in 1973 and was a resident at Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Illinois from 1998 to 1991, medical records show. He reported to the state that he is also licensed to practice in Illinois and Indiana.
He is certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology and is affiliated with the American Medical Association, the American Pain Society, the Florida Medical Society and the American Academy of Pain Medicine, records show.
A framed white American Medical Association certificate hangs on the wall in his office, stating that Armashi is "committed to upholding the highest medical and ethical standards for the profession."
Midmorning, Armashi stood in the office crowded with paper and charts. His wife, Nuha, sat behind a computer.
"The allegations are false," Armashi said. "I believe the justice system will uncover the truth." He said the patient accusing him has mental problems and is well known among psychologists in the area.
Armashi offered a printed statement that read: "As an American citizen, I am proud of our shared heritage of truth and justice. ... Accusations made in anger or maliciously do not withstand the light of truth. I thank my patients, my friends and colleagues, and most of all my family for their unwavering support. Their faith in me will be fully justified."
He directed further questions to his attorney, Jimmy Brown of Brooksville, who did not return calls for comment.
Bill Parizek, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health, said laws forbid him from commenting on whether the state is conducting an ongoing investigation into Armashi. He said the state conducts its own investigations into misconduct and decides whether to discipline doctors.
The state secretary of health could issue an emergency suspension to prevent a doctor from practicing, but that has not occurred in this case, Parizek said.
Sheriff's Lt. Paez said detectives began investigating the allegations against Armashi in March 2000 and will continue. They ask anyone with information to call 754-6830.
Armashi is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 22
_ Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Jamie Jones covers law enforcement in Hernando County and can be reached at (352) 754-6114 or by e-mail at jjonessptimes.com.