Friday, July 24, 2009
Surgeon Bernard Albina Charged with Sexual Abuse
An adult guardian could face charges for taking money in exchange for allowing a Houston doctor access to a child investigators said was one of at least four who had been sexually abused for years by the grandfatherly surgeon, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Orthopedic surgeon Bernard Zacharia Albina, 69, was arrested Tuesday on five charges stemming from years of alleged sexual abuse of four prepubescent boys. He is expected to be arraigned in state district court today.
Harris County Assistant District Attorney Eric Devlin said a guardian for one of the children could face charges for taking money for allowing access to one of the children. He said statutes of limitations may hinder prosecution, but a charge could be levied as part of an ongoing conspiracy.
“It's possible, we're still looking into it,” Devlin said. “We don't usually go after the parents or providers until after the sexual predator is in prison. We wanted to concentrate on getting Albina charged.”
Albina, accused of buying his way into the role of adopted grandfather for several families, may have paid one of the alleged victims $155,000 during 10 years of sexual abuse to keep the boy quiet, Devlin said.
“They were paid over time, from the time they were very young until they grew up. One of the kids may have received $155,000 all the way through. Other kids were paid various amounts of money,” he said.
He said Albina also bought houses where he let the families live rent-free to gain access to the children, who were between the ages of 4 to 6 when the alleged abuse began.
“I know of two houses for certain, but there may be more,” Devlin said.
Tapes of sex acts
Investigators said Albina strived to be a kind and patient “grandfather figure” to troubled youths and disadvantaged families.
“It's very hard to prey on the honor roll student, who has a good family background, who is outspoken,” said Houston police officer J.T. Roscoe, an investigator with the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. “They're called predators for a reason. Predators go after kids who they can tell, ‘No one's going to believe you. Nobody loves you.' ”
Roscoe said police searched Albina's home and offices, seizing hundreds of hours of videotape depicting sex acts with the children . Investigators continue to search for other victims, some of whom were recorded on videotape dating back decades, Roscoe said.
According to court documents, the investigation began in January 2007, after one of Albina's victims, now 26, told police he had been abused, including oral and anal sex, from 1988 to 1998, starting when he was 5.
Albina remains jailed in lieu of $400,000 bail. Court records do not show an attorney of record for him.
Among other sexual assault charges, Albina is accused of continuous sexual abuse of a child, an enhanced first-degree felony that could send him to prison for a minimum of 25 years, with no chance of parole or early release, and a maximum of life behind bars if convicted.
Devlin said two of the victims, now adults, were related to patients of Albina.
“Even though (the victims) might not have been patients, he still met all of them through a doctor role.”
He declined to release details about the other two victims, who now are teenagers.