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Long Island pediatrician admits to sexually exploiting children

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A Long Island doctor has pleaded guilty to federal charges and has admitted he sexually exploited pediatric patients and recorded the encounters at his Bethpage office, prosecutors said Thursday.

Rakesh Punn, 56, now faces a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years, after pleading guilty Thursday to the sexual exploitation charge at U.S. District Court in Central Islip. Prosecutors had charged Punn sexually exploited three pediatric patients – all minors – “under the guide of medical treatment” and recorded the incidents at his Bethpage office. They also had alleged he then submitted fraudulent insurance claims for the victims’ encounters. In a news release announcing his conviction, prosecutors said “the purported treatments had not been conducted for any medically accepted purpose, but rather, solely for the sexual gratification of the defendant.”

“We trust doctors – especially pediatricians – to care for our children. The defendant took advantage of that trust in the most egregious manner,” said Loretta Lynch, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “He took advantage of children who came to him for medical help. In doing so, he not only violated the criminal law, but betrayed his oath as a licensed physician to do no harm.”

Punn’s attorney, Steve Zissou, told Newsday his client “accepts responsibility and plans to move on with his life.” Punn remains behind bars at the Nassau County Jail as he awaits sentencing in the federal case and awaits trial in a similar state-level case. He could not be reached for comment.

Punn pleaded guilty in 2012 to grand larceny, welfare fraud and scheme to defraud charges after being indicted in Nassau County. He is currently awaiting sentence in that case. He also faces additional charges in Nassau County for allegedly recording sexually explicit activities with his underage patients during visits to his office, federal officials said. A spokesman for the Nassau County district attorney’s office said Punn has not entered a plea in that case and is due back in court in late June.

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