Crime

Lakewood Ranch man provided counseling to sexual abuse victims. He was a fake, cops say

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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

Sarasota police detectives have arrested Phillip Stutzman, 43, of Lakewood Ranch on three felony charges of unlicensed practice of a healthcare professional.

Police say he was providing services under false pretenses to women who have been victims of sexual abuse.

According to the police report, Stutzman was, “putting people at risk by trusting his professional advice as a doctor,” but he has no higher education, “and unlikely even a GED.”

One of the victims told Stutzman at one point that she was suicidal but since he wasn’t a real doctor, he did not follow the mandatory reporter protocol, which detectives say endangered the victim’s life.

Stutzman would sometimes talk about his own sexual encounters while providing counseling to sexual abuse victims and tried to invite one of the victims to stay in his hotel room during a conference, the report states. Police say Stutzman would “hug and “kiss” the victim after each session.

According to a press release issued Tuesday morning, three different females have come forward and police believe there are more victims.

The victims told police that Stutzman, going by the name of Dr. Phillip Niako, was providing counseling and therapy services under false pretenses between October 2016 through January of this year.

Police say Stutzman claimed to have a master’s degree in neuroscience and a doctorate in psychology.

Stutzman also was treating individuals with weight and anxiety issues, police say.

Sarasota detectives contacted the Florida Department of Health, which confirmed there were no valid licenses for Stutzman or his alias, Niako. Detectives also contacted the online universities where Stutzman claimed to have earned degrees, and that proved to be false, as well, according to the release.

Stutzman was arrested on June 20 and has since been released on bond. Anyone with information in this case can call Detective Ross Revill at 941-954-7092 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers by calling 941-366-TIPS or online at sarasotacrimestoppers.com.

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