Doctor charged with 50 counts of drugging and raping women

Mr Cheng
Police found recreational drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy at the home of Mr Cheng
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A gastroenterologist has been charged with 50 counts of drugging and raping women after filming attacks around the world, including some at the prestigious New York hospital that employed him.

Prosecutors said Zhi Alan Cheng, 33, filmed his assaults in New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Thailand over several years.

He was first arrested in December 2022 and fired from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in Queens after his then-girlfriend discovered and reported videos of him allegedly assaulting her and multiple other women.

Police later found recreational drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy and several anaesthetics at his home, as well as a stash of recordings.

‘Sexual predator of the worst kind’

On Monday, Mr Cheng appeared in court and was charged with 50 new counts, including rape, sexual abuse and unlawful surveillance and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Prosecutors cited dozens of short videos of him allegedly sexually abusing women, including a 19-year-old patient suffering from gallstones and a “seriously ill” 47-year-old.

The new charges relate to six women – three patients attacked in hospital and three others at his home. All of them appeared to be unconscious during the attacks.

At least five other unidentified women were filmed being assaulted at hotel rooms or at homes across the United States and Thailand.

However, prosecutors fear there may be more victims that have not yet been identified.

Melinda Katz, the district attorney for Queens County, urged other victims to come forward, saying the evidence pointed to “a sexual predator of the absolute worst kind, a serial rapist”.

She said he was prepared to violate “every standard of human decency”.

New York-Presbyterian hospital
Mr Cheng was fired from his role at New York-Presbyterian last year - Noam Galai/Getty Images

In one case, Mr Cheng is accused of filming himself groping a 37-year-old patient as she lay unconscious at the prominent Queens hospital in 2021.

He is accused of filming himself raping a woman he met on a dating app a short time later.

A small brown bottle is visible in the footage, similar to one containing a powerful anaesthetic recovered during the raid of Mr Cheng’s flat, according to the authorities.

That same year, he is accused of raping a 19-year-old patient who was being treated for severe gallstone-related pain.

Mr Cheng performed an unnecessary exam and injected the woman with an “unknown substance” and sexually assaulted her, said prosecutors.

Nicholas Liakas, the victims’ lawyer, called the doctor “essentially a predator in a white coat”.

He said he fears the brazen nature of Mr Cheng’s brutal and methodical pattern of alleged assaults suggests he may have targeted other patients.

“For someone to rise to this level where you are drugging and raping a person, that doesn’t happen overnight,” Mr Liakas told NBC New York.

Many of the women later woke with no memory of what had happened, prosecutors said.

‘A fundamental betrayal’

The gastroenterologist’s prosecution follows the high-profile sentencing of another doctor who worked at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Robert Hadden, a gynaecologist believed to have abused 245 women over two decades, was jailed for 20 years in June.

Angela Karafazi, a spokesman for NewYork-Presbyterian, said Mr Cheng’s alleged conduct was “heinous, despicable and a fundamental betrayal” of patients’ trust.

The hospital intends to review its patient safety policies and implement additional training for all employees, she said.

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