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Former Illinois gynecologist pleads guilty to sexual abuse of women during exams

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Dr. Fabio Ortega

A Skokie police booking photo of Dr. Fabio Ortega, who was arrested Sept. 10, 2018.

A former obstetrician/gynecologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving two of his former patients Tuesday.

Dr. Fabio Ortega, 75, pleaded guilty to two counts of the charge, involving two separate women, in Cook County Circuit Court. The two charges stemmed from incidents in 2017 and 2016, in which the women said that he sexually abused them during exams.

One incident occurred during an exam on a 37-year-old woman at a NorthShore office in Skokie. The other incident involved a 40-year-old woman at Ortega’s Lincolnwood office. Both women said Ortega asked them inappropriate questions and then touched them inappropriately.

Ortega was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison, with credit for 170 days that he’s already been under electronic monitoring. He may serve less than that if he has good behavior while incarcerated.

Ortega was arrested in September 2018 by Skokie police and originally charged with one count of criminal sexual assault. Ortega’s medical license was also suspended in 2018 for “engaging in sexual misconduct with (a) patient of his practice,” according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

One of the women appeared in court in Skokie on Tuesday, and read a statement before sentencing, describing how the incident has derailed her life. She said she came forward after hearing about similar allegations against Ortega on the news. The Tribune does not name victims of sexual abuse without their permission.

Often looking straight at Ortega, she said she’s suffered from depression and anxiety since the incident, and is no longer the type of wife and mother she used to be. She said that Ortega may not remember her, but she will always remember him.

“I’m a shell of my former self,” she told the court. “I’m not living. I’m barely surviving day to day. Not only did my life change the moment you touched me, but so did the lives of my husband and my children.”

After she spoke, Ortega rose to tearfully give his own statement.

“As a physician, I have never intended to hurt anyone. Never, never,” he said. “I sincerely apologize to the women who felt that I acted inappropriately.”

Though Ortega pleaded guilty Tuesday to the criminal charges involving the two women, he faces similar accusations from other women. Nine civil lawsuits against him remain pending in Cook County Circuit Court and they’ve been consolidated, said attorney Tamara Holder, who is representing other women accusing him of wrongdoing.

A number of the civil lawsuits also name NorthShore and Swedish Covenant Hospital as defendants. The lawsuits allege that NorthShore failed to warn patients about allegations made against Ortega. Ortega worked at Swedish before working at NorthShore, according to the lawsuits. Swedish has since become part of the NorthShore system.

NorthShore said in a statement Tuesday that it was unable to comment on any litigation related to Ortega.

“We respect the courage demonstrated by our patients in raising this matter and place great value in any opportunity to build upon the excellent quality of care we strive to provide our patients,” NorthShore said in the statement.

The civil lawsuits allege that NorthShore permitted Ortega to retire rather than fire him. NorthShore has declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding the end of his employment.


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