THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, Los Angeles, 24 December 2002.

December 24, 2002

Disfiguration of Patients Is Alleged

By Andrew Blankstein, Times Staff Writer

A Santa Clarita man who allegedly performed female circumcisions and other illegal body alterations at his home was arrested on suspicion of practicing medicine without a license, state regulators said Monday.

Todd Cameron Bertrang, 40, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of performing several dozen illegal and disfiguring medical procedures since 1997, including clitoridectomies and penile piercings, according to investigators with the Medical Board of California. The agency is responsible for licensing and regulating physicians.

"Your typical piercing doesn't rise to the level of practicing medicine, which requires a license," said John Hirai, supervising investigator for the agency.

"In this case, Bertrang did procedures on people that altered their body beyond a typical piercing."

The victims, who were mostly in their 20s, were evenly split between men and women, who sought out Bertrang to perform a variety of "body modifications," Harai said. Bertrang detailed those practices on a Web site.

Earlier this year, the site caught the attention of a doctor who reported to the medical board that Bertrang was performing clitoridectomies on women in Southern California. The agency launched an investigation under a unit known as Operation Safe Medicine.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which had also received a complaint about Bertrang, had opened its own probe about the same time.

"I've been with the medical board a long time, and I can't remember a case like this," said agency spokesman David Thorton. "It's unusual."

Bertrang's arrest is the 10th this year through Operation Safe Medicine, which investigates dangerous or unlicensed medical practitioners.

Anyone with information about other alleged victims of Bertrang, or any other possible criminal activity connected to him, are asked to contact the state medical board at (562) 860-2819. To confirm whether someone is licensed medical practitioner, call the board's information line at (916) 263-2382.

(File prepared 26 December 2002)