LOS ANGELES — A doctor initially arrested by Montebello police earlier this year on suspicion of molesting one patient last year appeared in court Tuesday to answer allegations that he molested eight patients over the past five years, authorities said.
Arturo Vargas, 41, pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of molestation stemming from the allegations of eight women, according to court officials and an amended felony complaint filed against Vargas Feb. 6.
Montebello police initially arrested Vargas Jan. 4 at the end of a six-month investigation into a woman’s allegations that he sexually assaulted her during a July, 2011 medical exam at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Offices, 1550 Town Center Drive.
Information released to the public about the case against Vargas helped generate new leads in the case, which was expanded to include seven additional women who allege sexual assault by the doctor dating back as far as 2007, according to court documents.
“The police department put out a press release announcing the arrest,” Deputy District Attorney Martha Carrillo said. “It got disseminated, and potential victims came forward.”
Vargas was ordered to return to Los Angeles Superior Court March 15 for a preliminary hearing, court officials said.
Several of the alleged molestations occurred at the same Montebello medical office involved in the initial allegation against Vargas, however others took place at other Los Angeles County facilities, Carrillo said.
Vargas, who has no prior criminal history, has been employed with Kaiser Permanente since 2005, Montebello police officials said. Details on his career before Kaiser were not available.
He was placed on leave from his position with Kaiser at the beginning of the investigation, according to police and Kaiser officials.
Further details were not immediately available.
Vargas was released after posting $200,000 bail within hours of his Jan. 4 arrest, according to county booking records.
He was re-arrested Feb. 6 after the amended complaint was filed in court and released the following day after posting $925,000 bail, records show.
According the the felony complaint filed against Vargas, he is charged with multiple counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object, sexual battery by fraud and sexual exploitation by a physician.
If convicted as charged, Vargas could face up to 104 years in state prison.