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Double Life: Part 2

Nothing seemed to stop Gerald Barnes, not even three more arrests and convictions for medical fraud. He didn't just lie to patients and doctors. He lied to his five wives.

His last marriage, in 1994, was to Lisa Roberts. He told her he was a doctor. "He was very charming," says Roberts. She never doubted that he was a doctor.

What drove this personable, smart man to deceive so many people? One psychiatrist who examined him called him "immature, extremely insecure . . . and depressed." But Barnes claims he was only interested in helping others.

Although he says that he did not pull off the scam for money, he made hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. He also used the real Dr. Barnes's identity to open credit accounts, which he used to buy cars and other items.

Assistant US Attorney Dan Saunders says that Barnes is dangerous and says that no one really knows how much damage Barnes caused. By 1994, he had been doing this for 18 years, working in at least 14 different clinics and medical offices.

Says Saunders: "He worked for 3 years at a blood clinic. Approximately 100,000 blood donors Barnes screened in accordance with federal government regulations. We don't know whether the blood was safe, whether it was tainted, whether there was something that he missed. We may never know that."

In 1996, Barnes, who had been in prison three times for impersonating a doctor, managed to land his best job, with the Executive Health Group in Los Angeles. He was the medical director. The main client was the LA office of the FBI, a fact that gives Barnes pleasure.

Barnes performed physical exams on about 100 FBI agents, both men and women. More than 100 female patients who received gynecological and breast exams have since joined a civil suit against the clinic, which is now out of business.

"I'm proud I pulled that off. Especially on the FBI, who I have contempt for," says Barnes.

Barnes was caught only when he inadvertently ran into D'Allesandro, his former colleague. D'Allesandro tipped off authorities, who arrested Barnes once again and notified his wife. She was shocked.

This time, Barnes was convicted on tough federal charges and sentenced to 12 1/2 years in federal prison. He was sent to the Taft Correctional Institution in Southern California.

"We thought that we had probably heard the last of him," says Saunders.

But while in prison, Barnes took correspondence courses in dermatology, internal medicine, and intestinal diseases. While in prison, he received 49 credits for continuing medical education.

Last year, after 3 years in prison, he convinced authorities to let him transfer to another prison to take courses not available at Taft. Prison authorities agreed and gave him $80 and a bus ticket. He was driven to a bus station in nearby Bakersfield.

But Barnes didn't take the bus to the other prison. He escaped and got a job as a doctor. "They caught me after a month," Barnes, sys, laughing. "I didn't do it right." He was sentenced to an additional 30 months for the escape.

Where was the state medical board that is supposed to protect the public from people like Barnes? For 15 years, the California board did nothing to alert the public or the medical community. Meanwhile, Barnes took job after job as a doctor, treating and mistreating unsuspecting patients.

Ron Joseph, who runs the California Medical Board, says that the board has tightened procedures since Barnes's case came to light in 1996. To be fair, Joseph didn't come to the board until November of 1995. And 6 months later, the phony Barnes was caught.

"It's weak," says Barnes of the system that allowed him to get away with so much. "And embarrassing to them." Barnes says he still thinks he could go out and practice medicine as well as any other doctor. But he says he won't do it: "I'm through."

Barnes is now in federal prison. Even today he shows no remorse, not to his former patiets, his five children, or his five former wives.

"He doesn't deserve a name," says his fifth wife, Lisa Roberts. "I just don't want to see him ever out from behind bars again!"

Barnes says he hopes to be free in about 5 1/2 years. But he may still face a new set of federal charges, for posing again as a doctor during his escape from prison last year.

Assistant US Attorney Dan Saunders is convinced that Barnes will try again. "As long as he can walk and get himself to a clinic, and put on the white coat, he would want to do it."

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