A Santa Ana psychiatrist’s license to practice has been placed on probation for 35 months due to his ill treatment of patients, family members, an Orange County judge and a Medical Board of California investigator, according to state officials.
The order for Dr. Robert T. Perez went into effect on Dec. 8. That was after Perez and his Santa Ana attorney Lee J. Retros had signed a letter in September accepting the medical board’s allegations and punishment against the psychiatrist, which includes seeing a psychiatrist.
State records cited Perez’s behavior toward numerous people and care and treatment of a patient identified as M.M. On June 26, 2013, Perez greeted the patient, a married mother, with “How are you, beautiful? You’re beautiful as always.” That made M.M. uncomfortable.
During the first half hour of the visit, Perez discussed his divorce from his wife, whom he referred to as a cabrona (bitch). He claimed she was trying to take his daughter away from her and showed M.M. a photo of his daughter and the restraining order his wife took out against him, saying that as a doctor he did not deserve it. Then he added, “You’re a very valuable woman; get a divorce, and I will take you.”
The next time M.M. went back to Perez’s office, on July 18, 2013, she brought a female friend—not for an appointment but to drop off insurance documents and express concerns that her pharmacist passed along about the Topamax the psychiatrist prescribed her reacting badly with the Xanax and Lexapro she was already taking. The psychiatrist reportedly blew up. “I was on vacation, what do you want me to do?” he said. “I have problems. I have to go to court on Monday. My ex-wife is a fucking liar and she wants to take my daughter from me. I am a doctor, I am the one that knows. Assholes! Bastards! I’m going to sue them assholes!”
M.M. became frightened, called her husband and put him on speaker phone. Later that same day, she received three calls from Perez’s office, and when M.M. called back thinking her next appointment was going to be cancelled, she was instead informed by the secretary that the doctor wanted to talk with her. Still scared, M.M. refused.
On July 23, 2013, M.M. went to Perez’s office with her husband and son to pick up insurance papers. Perez was rude with the husband, told him to leave the office and accused the couple of being paranoid. The psychiatrist asked the husband if he brought a firearm, and after he replied that he did not, Perez told M.M. he would only turn over the papers if she came to the office alone. M.M.’s husband replied that was not going to happen, and Perez told him to shut up and if he did not like the doctor’s methods the door was wide open. When M.M.’s son said not to talk to his father like that, Perez calmed down.
M.M. demanded Perez give up her medical charts so she could see a different psychiatrist, and when he refused she swiped the records away from him. When Perez threatened to call 911 on her for taking his property, she gave the charts back. He yelled at her that she was a paranoid schizophrenic, said “Bye-bye” and tried to close a door on the family. But the son stopped the door from closing, prompting Perez to once again ask if the family was armed. He then ran out of the office to make copies of the medical records but did not give M.M. her full records.
Around Dec. 11, 2013, a medical board investigator responding to M.M.’s complaint visited the office of Perez, who “was rude and unprofessional and very sarcastic and condescending,” according to state documents. Perez reportedly clinched both fists and took a fighting stance as the investigator had one hand in his pocket and the other clinching a portfolio. The state official informed Perez that he failed to pay his medical license fees.
The board’s records show that after M.M.’s last appointment with Perez, he altered her medical record to counter her allegations against him.
Then there is the matter of Perez’s ex-girlfriend. The mother of a then-10-year-old daughter with Perez had once worked for him. But Perez had argued repeatedly with her 17-year-old daughter and in a huff driven over her lawn. As the couple was breaking apart, Perez threatened to call immigration officers and have his girlfriend deported. He threatened to switch his practice to cash only so he could withhold child support, which is illegal in California, and to gain full custody of their daughter. He told his ex that he had anonymously called local police to report her for not having a drivers license and working illegally. He wrote numerous letters stating she was mentally ill and bipolar.
The ex-girlfriend went before an Orange County Family Court judge to request a restraining order to protect her, her two daughters and two nephews from the psychiatrist. In court, Perez disrespected the judge, who issued the restraining order based on the doctor’s demeanor, which appeared to be angry. Perez was awarded monitored visits with his daughter and ordered to take an eight-week class in anger management class. While the judge later granted Perez unmonitored visitation with his child, the anger-management course’s term was upped to 22 weeks because the doctor continued to threaten his ex as the court monitored them.
The medical board found Perez’s ill behavior with patients—M.M. in particular—his family, the court and an investigator constituted gross negligence, repeated negligent acts, dishonesty and unprofessional conduct.
During his probation, Perez must obey all laws, submit quarterly progress updates to the board, undergo a psychiatric evaluation, notify hospitals where he has privileges of his probationary status, refrain from supervising physician assistants and advanced practice nurses and complete a professional boundaries program and courses in ethics, medical education and prescribing practices.
Failure to abide by these conditions could set in motion license revocation procedures.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.