A California man who once posed as a physician executive and was serving more than 12 years on his fourth conviction for impersonating a doctor was sentenced Monday to 10 more years for once again posing as a doctor after escaping from a federal prison in 2000, officials said.
Gerald Barnbaum, 70, pleaded guilty in September 2003 to impersonating Gerald Barnes, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon from Stockton, Calif., so Barnbaum could work at Family Medical Center clinics in Los Angeles for one month. He was paid $10,000.
To get the job, he said he had just returned from working as a doctor in Israeli-occupied territory, said U.S. attorney's office spokesman Thom Mrozek.
In reality, he had escaped from federal custody after serving about a third of his sentence. He escaped while he was being transferred unescorted from a low-security prison in Taft, Calif., to one in Marion, Ill., in August 2000, Mrozek said.
By the time Barnbaum was arrested, he had already examined and treated numerous patients, including writing prescriptions for them.
He used the real physician's Social Security number and credit rating to buy a new car worth more than $25,000.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders asked that Barnbaum be sentenced to up to about eight years, Mrozek said. Instead, U.S.District Judge J. Spencer Letts increased the sentence to up to 10 years.
Letts also ordered Barnbaum to stop using the name Gerald C. Barnes after finding no evidence to support his claim he had legally changed his name in the 1970s. Letts also ordered that the man not have access to medical texts while in prison.
Barnbaum's current prison sentence, combined with an additional two-and-a-half years for escape, will expire in June 2009. He will then begin serving the additional 10 years. The earliest he could be released is 2017, Mrozek said.
In 1981, Barnbaum pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of a diabetic whom he misdiagnosed. He was later convicted of grand theft and writing phony prescriptions, but each time he left prison, he went right back to impersonating Barnes.
In 1996, he pleaded guilty to federal charges of impersonating a doctor. At the time, he was working as the medical director of Executive Health Group in Los Angeles, a clinic that served patients employed by the Federal Reserve Bank, the FBI and numerous Fortune 500 companies.
For that plea, he was sentenced to his current prison sentence.