VISTA, Calif. -- An Oceanside physician who sexually assaulted five female patients referred by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was sentenced Thursday to three years probation and was ordered to register as a sex offender and surrender his medical license.
Dr. Edgar Manzanera, 39, could face three years in state prison if he violates the terms of his probation.
Manzanera, who was contracted by the VA to review pension disability claims, pleaded guilty last September to one count of sexual exploitation by a physician for acts committed in 2015 and 2016, and admitted a special allegation of committing acts against multiple victims.
Four counts of sexual penetration with a foreign object were dismissed as part of the plea.
The plea deal allows Manzanera to travel to Guatemala, where he also holds citizenship, but prosecutors said he will have to obtain approval from the probation department each time he leaves the country.
"We did speak to every single one of the victims prior to entering into the plea agreement," Deputy District Attorney Dan Owens said. "At that point in time they indicated they understood the reasons why we would agree to this outcome."
During the sentencing hearing, one victim identified as Jane Doe #4 spoke about how her life was severely rocked after being sexually assaulted by Manzanera during what was supposed to be an examination for her neck. "I can't go into a doctor's office alone," she said. "After the sexual assault I cannot stand to be touched. My relationship crumbled. Other than a small core group of friends, I avoid people because I don't trust them."
Jane Doe #4 said Manzanera used his contract work with the VA to exploit the veteran patients he treated. "I have been conditioned to obey authority," she said. "Edgar Manzanera knew that and used my training and discipline to sexually assault me. He broke a solemn oath and used it to harm a military veteran who went to him for help."
Manzanera's June 2018 arrest came two days before one of his former patients filed lawsuits in state and federal court against him, the VA and his former employer, QTC Medical Services.
The lawsuits filed in Vista and Arizona assert that Manzanera committed sexual battery against the plaintiff and falsely imprisoned her inside a clinic in Oceanside in 2016 while he was alone with her in an examination room.
Although there was no medical reason for her to undress, the veteran said Manzanera had her take off her clothes and lift a medical gown over her head until she couldn't see what he was doing, according to the lawsuit.
"The victims placed the defendant in a position of inherent trust and confidence and the defendant betrayed that trust," Deputy District Attorney Claudia Plascencia said. "The victims allowed the defendant access to the most intimate parts of their body and he, in turn, under the guise of medical evaluations, performed unnecessary gynecological evaluations and inappropriate touching against these victims."