Dr. Francis Rienzo Will Also Pay Over $85,000 in Penalties and Costs, Also Faces Allegations of Questionable Prescribing Practices
NEWARK – Continuing their commitment to address sexual misconduct and abuse by licensed professionals, Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that the State Board of Medical Examiners has suspended the license of a Monmouth County physician who admitted having engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with a female patient he was treating for substance abuse and who allegedly also engaged in questionable prescribing practices involving the same patient.
Francis Rienzo, 60, of Sea Girt, New Jersey, who maintains a private practice in Sea Girt and practices at numerous treatment centers across New Jersey, entered into a Consent Order with the Board that imposes a three year suspension of his New Jersey medical credentials and a civil penalty and costs, totaling $85,856, to resolve the matter.
According to the Consent Order, Rienzo’s inappropriate sexual contact with a patient and his prescribing of potentially addictive medications, if proven, would constitute gross or repeated malpractice and professional misconduct. The Order further notes the physician’s alleged failures to maintain an adequate patient record and to perform an appropriate patient examination prior to issuing a prescription would, if proven, provide grounds for disciplinary action.
“We will not tolerate sexual misconduct by healthcare professionals towards their patients,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “Physicians who betray their patients’ trust and violate professional standards will be held accountable.”
Under the terms of the Consent Order, Rienzo is precluded from practicing medicine while serving two years of active suspension, and the remaining year as a period of probation.
“The dangerous and unethical behavior exhibited by this doctor raised serious concerns,” said Sean P. Neafsey, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Our office works hard to protect patients and ensure those who abuse the public’s trust are penalized.”
In April, the Office of the Attorney General announced sweeping reforms to crack down on sexual abuse and misconduct by licensed professionals and issued Administrative Executive Directive No. 2021-3 to improve how the professional boards and committees deal with issues relating to sexual misconduct. The Directive stems from a comprehensive review conducted by the Division, and it affects approximately 700,000 New Jersey licensees, including physicians, social workers, and home health aides.
Currently, Rienzo is the medical director for several New Jersey treatment centers, including the Comprehensive Treatment Center in Cliffwood, Endeavor House in North Kearny, Advanced Health and Education Addiction Treatment Center and Clearwater Behavioral Health in Eatontown, and Sunrise Detox in Cherry Hill, Stirling, and Toms River. Additionally, Rienzo is also a staff physician at Jersey Shore Addiction Services and Hackensack Meridian Health, both with offices in Neptune.
To allow adequate time for the orderly transfer of patients to other New Jersey licensed physicians, the suspension will go into effect on December 17, 2021. During this “wind-down” period, Rienzo is prohibited from accepting any new patients and must ensure that patients have access to their medical records.
Effective December 17, 2021, Rienzo cannot have any contact with patients, practice as a physician, or issue any medical prescriptions, including for controlled dangerous substances. Rienzo is also precluded from entering the premises of his medical practice when patients may be present, and may not receive or share any fee for professional services rendered by others.
Under the terms of the Consent Order, Rienzo will be required to appear before the Board to demonstrate fitness to resume medical practice should he petition for reinstatement of his license after two years of active suspension. In the event that Rienzo’s license is reinstated in the future, a Board-approved chaperone will have to be present any time that he provides treatment to any female patient for any reason.
Investigators with the Enforcement Bureau within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation in this case.
Deputy Attorney General Nisha S. Lakhani of the Professional Boards Prosecution Section in the Division of Law represented the State in this matter.
Patients who believe that they have been treated in an inappropriate manner by a licensed health care professional can file a complaint with the relevant professional board online or by calling 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail. The Division has prepared an overview on the complaint process, which is available on the website to potential complainants in multiple languages.
The mission of the Division of Consumer Affairs, within the Department of Law and Public Safety, is to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and professional misconduct in the sale of goods and services in New Jersey through education, advocacy, regulation and enforcement. The Division pursues its mission through its 51 professional and occupational boards that oversee 720,000 licensees in the state, its Regulated Business section that oversees 60,000 NJ registered businesses, as well as through its Office of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Securities, Charities Registration section, Office of Weights and Measures, and Legalized Games of Chance section.