Last Updated: 11:44 a.m.
Florence Fruehan, the long-time Palm Coast physician who agreed last month to stop practicing medicine to end an investigation by the Florida Department of Health into inappropriate contact between him and patients, now faces criminal charges.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office today filed two misdemeanor battery charges against Fruehan, based on two women’s allegations of inappropriate sexual touching by Fruehan while they were his patients. One of the women’s allegations was at the center of the investigation by the Department of Health. The second is a new allegation, and that charging affidavit includes a list of three additional accounts by three women of unwanted touching by Fruehan. Those women provided sworn statements to the sheriff’s office but decline to pursue charges out of fear or embarrassment, according to the sheriff’s office.
It is up to the State Attorney’s Office to decide whether to formalize the charges against Fruehan, who has faced similar, and worse, charges in the past: two battery charges and one charge of sexual battery, all dropped at a time in previous decades when there was little to no attention on the cases.
Fruehan, 58, a resident of Flagship Drive in Palm Coast, was ordered in early August to stop seeing patients without the presence of a licensed health practitioner in the room, as a witness. Weeks later he agreed to stop practicing medicine altogether in exchange for the department ending its inquiry. The case is scheduled before the Department of Health’s Board of Osteopathic Medicine’s Nov. 16 meeting, when the board will consider accepting Fruehan’s voluntary surrender, which also entails a prohibition on him practicing medicine in Florida again.
The state started the case against Fruehan shortly after a woman reported being allegedly groped in his office. The woman reported the matter to the Sheriff’s Office, but a deputy took a report and did nothing further–until FlaglerLive’s reporting of the Department of Health investigation. The reporting included reference to the stillborn investigation at the sheriff’s office, and appears to have revived the case. A sheriff’s detective was assigned, and several former patients made allegations about Fruehan’s conduct.
If the State Attorney files the counts against Fruehan and he is found guilty, the penalty would amount at most to fines and probation, even though a first-degree misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of a year at the local jail. That penalty is almost never imposed on individuals with no previous convictions. But the weightier effect of the allegations potentially adds to Fruehan’s legal burdens and professional discredit. Fruehan is also an elected member of the three-person East Flagler Mosquito Control board.
Both misdemeanor battery charges against Fruehan are filed by women willing to name themselves, though their names are not being reported here. One was the 59-year-old Palm Coast resident who had been a long-time patient of Fruehan’s, and who had initiated the state investigation.
The other was made by a 39-year-old Palm Coast woman who had gone to see Fruehan soon after moving to Palm Coast in 2016. She needed a physical for insurance purposes. That account is new.
The woman had gone to Fruehan’s office in September 2016 at 9 Pine Cone Drive in Palm Coast with her 2-year-old child. While in the waiting room, “she said that she could hear the staff talking about other patients and using obscene language during their conversations,” the patient reported to a detective.
She then entered an exam room and was followed by Fruehan. He asked her questions, she answered, then had her lie down. He touched her legs, then asked her to sit up. “Fruehan began touching her back underneath her shirt and then moved his hands under her shirt towards her breasts,” the patient reported. “Fruehan began touching [the patient’s] breasts while his hands were still under her shirt. [The patient] said that Dr. Fruehan did not say anything and did not advise her what he was checking for while he was touching her breasts. [The patient] said that she felt violated and very uncomfortable because there was not a nurse or a female assistant in the room during the exam and that her two-year-old child was in the room with her.”
Fruehan then ended the “exam.” But as the patient walked to the front desk, “Fruehan walked beside her, wrapped his arm around her waist, stopped, and said, ‘Open your mouth.'” Fruehan then grabbed an instrument from his pocket and began examining her throat, eyes and ears at the checkout desk.
The patient left and never returned. She decided to file a charge of battery last month.
The additional charge was the result of the 59-year-old woman’s visit. She had gone to Fruehan for a refill on a prescription. After asking appropriate questions, Fruehan walked the woman to the front desk, then started asking personal questions–whether the woman worked, whether she was married (the woman was a widow). The questions were not in and of themselves necessarily unusual when a doctor is attempting to establish a history, but the setting–at the front desk, around other people–was.
Fruehan asked the woman if she’d had a mammogram, and when she said no, he asked her to follow him into a room unattended by others. “At this point Dr. Fruehan grabbed both of her breasts through her shirt and bra and kneaded them with his hands,” the patient reported. “He then let go of her breasts and said ‘I’m sorry your husband died’ and he exited the room.” She’d never given permission and Fruehan had no medical reason to touch the breasts of the woman, the report states, especially after her specifically asking for a referral to an OB/GYN for a mammogram.
The woman described herself as “in shock” by the way Fruehan had touched her.
The detective reported she was was contacted by “numerous” additional women who made further allegations.
Some documented examples include a 50-year-old woman who visited Fruehan in September 2016 for refills on her prescription, and who experienced the almost exact pattern of behavior the 59-year-old woman had experienced: After a routine visit, Fruehan walked her out to the reception counter, then pulled her into a dark room near the reception desk and “pushed on both of her breasts while stating he needed to check something real quick,” according to the report. The woman was puzzled, left, and never returned.
A 70-year-old woman reported visiting Fruehan’s office in early 2015. She’d been his patient for years. “On this visit, which was her last visit,” the report states, “Fruehan walked her to the receptionist desk. She further stated as they became close to the desk, Dr. Fruehan took her by her arm and led her into an exam room across from the reception desk which was dark. Dr. Fruehan pulled up her shirt and grabbed her breasts with his hands connecting to her bare breasts. She immediately reacted and asked Dr. Fruehan what he was doing as it was inappropriate. She stated Dr. Fruehan’s response was, ‘I’m checking for skin cancer.’ She immediately responded with, ‘not like that.’ Dr. Fruehan told her not to say anything and that he owned half the block. She left and never returned.”
A 74 year old woman reported yet another similar experience after a 2016 visit: what started as a routine check-up continued with her going to the reception desk, her speaking to Fruehan about her husband’s recent passing, then Fruehan allegedly grabbing her and taking her to an office. “Fruehan closed and locked the door after they entered,” the report states. “Fruehan approached her, unzipped her vest and unbuttoned the top two buttons of her blouse and began grabbing and touching her breasts on the outside of her bra. Moments later Dr. Fruehan stopped touching her breasts and exited the office. She couldn’t believe what was happening and was in complete shock and exited the office as quickly as possible and never returned.”
The charging affidavit states the charges are supported by “the demonstration of prohibited activity Dr. Fruehan repeatedly engaged in,” and his “pattern violating the rights of female patients that appear to be vulnerable from being on specific medications and/or family losses.”
The detective spoke with Fruehan in early August. He told the detective he’d already made a statement to the Department of Health, and discredited one of the patient’s allegations, saying she was under the influence of medication. He denied wrongdoing, saying he never did breast exams–only heart and lung exams. “He stated people are misinterpreting inappropriate behavior,” the detective reported.
Wow… This was my doctor since I was a little girl! its terrible that he has went this long still being able to treat patients! Absolutely disgusting….
Thank you Sheriff Staly, I am glad these women will be seeing justice for themselves. And prevented this from happening in the future to other innocent women.
Seriously?! A misdemeanor?! That is outrageous! This man is a sexual predator who abused his position of power to sexually assault women!!! He needs to be locked up and put on a sexual predator list for the rest of his life! And why was the sheriff protecting him!!?? Why was the investigation being deaded when there where victims that needed justice??!!
Lock him up naked in a room full of mosquitos for an hour.
About time! says
Finally! There have been rumors about this dr for years. Thanks to the brave women that came forward and to Flagler Live for reporting it.
I have heard the same thing for so many years. That’s not ok.
Nancy N. says
I think the Sheriff’s office owes the community an explanation about why the initial reports ended up being ignored until there was media attention and a licensing board investigation. How many more women did this man assault in that time?
Because its highly circumstantial, he said she said, hard to prove with out evidence thats why. Feel bad for all parties involved but massive shadow of doubt. Just saying IMHO
And I suppose none of the staff working for this doctor noticed his deplorable behavior? No way his employees didn’t notice him escorting female patients to darkened rooms. Shameful!
It amazes me how some people sleep at night.
I think Nancy N. has a very valid question and how many other complaints are handled in the same manner?
Beach Guy says
I’m sure more women will come out over the next 30 years or so.
Unfortunately, groping is just misdemeanor battery. That is the strongest charge they could get on him. It’s a loophole of which he was probably aware, given his track record.
I worked for him and NEVER saw or witnessed any behavior that he is being accused for. I feel like a lot of women jumped on the banwagon!
Speak the truth says
@ Jackie is he paying you to say this? Everyone knows what a scumbag he is and a pervert. He deserves everything he gets.
Misdemeanor charges, I certainly hope he will get the maxoum sentence allowed. Sounds like perhaps he paod a cash settlement when charges had occured at a previous time and he was still practicing
To Jackie, you said you worked for him but the report says that no assistant, witness, or chaperone is present to “protect” him. The mere allegation or accusation of sexual impropriety is enough to destroy his career as in this case. Lesson here is – Never examine a female patient unchaperoned.
I will testify. I know a lot of information on him and his family. I move out of state to avoid them.
Haw Creek Girl says
Geez. I went to him. Was he slightly inappropriate on occasion…yes. If you don’t welcome or entertain the advances, he refocuses and is a decent doctor over all. Sad to say but he was known for how free handed he was with his prescription pad and many CHOSE to go to him for that benefit despite his crude and inappropriate manner. It’s only fair that both sides acknowledge their intentions and indescretions, while Freuhan may have been inappropriate and crude, any patient could have simply chosen another doctor if they didn’t care for the doctor’s ways. It’s just a bit much that all of these ‘victims’ are coming out of the wood work now. There is a statute of limitations in place so that they State can’t prosecute after a certain amount of time has passed since said crime…maybe there needs to some sort of limitation on how long you can wait to make allegations that can lead to charges. Some women make it hard for other women to be taken seriously. It’s the modern day withchunt….
Mary Fusco says
OMG Anomous. Get over yourself. LOL. This man was my husband’s doctor for 20 years. He is an excellent and caring doctor. Over the years, he was never disrespectful to either of us. He is rather unconventional, I will say that. I will also say that he took us through some rough times. As for the allegations, I cannot comment because I don’t know. For those who are commenting saying “i Heard”, “Everyone knows”, etc. etc. it is all hearsay unless you have been victimized by him. I really love the posts by people who say when they were 13 or 14 he made inappropriate comments to them. Since they cannot drive themselves to the office, where were their parent or guardian. More importantly, why were they not at a pediatrician. If he is guilty, it is very sad because he is a good doctor, I think that we need to go back to the old days when there was a nurse present at all times when any doctor, male or female, was with a patient. Doctors need to refuse to see children under a certain age. This way, everyone is protected.
Any person who abused by this doctor i want you to know, it’s not your fault. This man is a predator. You’re not alone, there are others this happened to and many others who will be here to support you. Dont be afraid, even if it takes you 30 years to speak up, we will be here to believe you and support you. Being a victim of a crime like this by a man like that is a big ,embarrassing situation but do not feel shame, shame is what he will feel not the victims. There are many reasons you may have to not come foward and they are all valid. Just know we are all here for you,however long it takes.
@Dave. Thank you. The women who were abused by this person will need the support as they face this person in court.
And I want to remind everyone of someone back in the 70’s that the police originally refused to acknowledge was a serial killer: Ted Bundy.
He didn’t “fit” the so-called “normal serial killer” profile. He was a nice guy going to law school. Hhhhmmmm…
Yes, this is just an analogy for people to embrace. People aren’t always who we think they are. Let that thought sink in.
bella's mom says
Jackie I’m not jumping on the band wagon. You never saw anything, since he closed the door during the appointments and NEVER ever had a nurse in the room in all the 20 years of me being one of his patients. So of course there would be no witness to his inappropriate actions and verbal comments.
bella's mom says
Anonymous, I stand with you ! I also will testify .
I have been on both sides with this guy
He has told me what s great ass I have …and ask some guy that I gave a ride to
If he was the the lucky Recipient of oral sex from me ( and many many stupid comments)
Yes completely inappropriate——I just think that he says stupid stuff without thinking and can’t pull it back once it’s said—— he is definitely bi-bolar
Now on the other hand——He has literally saved my ass-
He is definitely a double edged Sword
I have left in tears totally humiliated because he felt the need to shame me
And I have left there laughing
Bottom line….. He took me on after he fired ( for the 20th time) and literally gave me my health back and now I live a normal life
Yes he is a jackass that says and does extremely stupid shit
But that jackass in my eyes in one hell of a doctor
Personally I just rolled with it and when he was inappropriate
I just let it roll
I needed skill more then I needed to worry about what dumb comments would come out of his mouth
OMG!! Your experiences are EXACTLY the same as mine!!
I’ve resided in Palm Coast for almost 30 years and rumors of this predatory behavior by this doctor has been circulating for 20 years !!! I wouldn’t take a pet to him. Terrible as a doctor and perverted as a man.