Victims of Detroit doctor charged with FGM told they were going on ‘special girl's trip'

Jumana Nagarwala accused of mutilating 6- to 8-year-old girls

DETROIT - A Detroit emergency department doctor has been arrested and charged with performing female genital mutilation on young girls at a medical clinic in Livonia, officials announced Thursday.

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 44, of Northville, is charged with performing female genital mutilation (FGM) on girls who were 6 to 8 years old at a medical office in Livonia.

ALSO SEE: Female genital mutilation: What is it, cultural and social factors

"According to the complaint, despite her oath to care for her patients, Dr. Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims," acting assistant Attorney General Blanco said. "The Department of Justice is committed to stopping female genital mutilation in this country, and will use the full power of the law to ensure that no girls suffer such physical and emotional abuse."

Nagarwala is an emergency department physician at a Detroit hospital and is employed by Henry Ford Health System. She was placed on administrative leave Thursday, Henry Ford Health System announced.

Nagarwala does not work at the Livonia medical clinic where the procedures were performed, according to court documents.

"Female genital mutilation constitutes a particularly brutal form of violence against women and girls," acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Lemisch said. "It is also a serious federal felony in the United States. The practice has no place in modern society, and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law."

Officials said some members of a particular religious and cultural community are known to practice FGM on young girls as part of their religious and cultural practices. Investigators said the practice is performed in an attempt to suppress female sexuality and reduce sexual pleasure and promiscuity.

The federal complaint says Nagarwala is a member of that community.

Investigation involves 2 girls from Minnesota

Court documents said Nagarwala's phone records revealed several phone calls to a family in Minnesota with a girl who just turned 7 years old. According to officials, the Minnesota family is part of the religious community in Minnesota that practices FGM.

Officials said the phone was tracked on Feb. 3 from Minnesota to Michigan. Someone used the phone that evening via a tower in Farmington Hills near multiple hotels, officials said. The phone was traced back to Minnesota on Feb. 4, officials said.

Investigators said surveillance video from Feb. 3 at a hotel in Farmington Hills showed two adult women and two young girls checking into two rooms. Officials believe that the two young girls were victims of FGM performed by Nagarwala.

"The allegations detailed in today’s criminal complaint are disturbing," FBI special agent in charge David Gelios said. "The FBI, along with its law enforcement partners, are committed to doing whatever is necessary to bring an end to this barbaric practice and to ensure no additional children fall victim to this procedure."

Investigators interviewed the two girls, who identified Nagarwala as the doctor who performed operations on them during a trip. They said their mother told them it was a "special" girls' trip, officials said. The girls told investigators that they were told by Nagarwala and their parents not to talk about the procedure.

One of the girls said she left a winter glove in the medical office. Officials executed a search warrant on Monday and found the glove in the medical clinic. Officials said the glove had the girl's first name written on it.

Investigators said doctors performed examinations on the young girls and found that FGM had been performed on them.

Other potential victims from Michigan

"The allegations against the defendant in this investigation are made even more deplorable, given the defendant’s position as a trusted medical professional in the community," HSI special agent in charge Steve Francis said. "My sincere hope is that these charges will give support to those who have allegedly suffered both physically and emotionally."

The investigation has identified other children who might have been victimized by Nagarwala between 2005 and 2007, including children in Michigan, officials said.

Child Protective Services personnel and FBI agents on Monday interviewed several young girls in Michigan who said procedures matching the description of FGM had been performed on them by Nagarwala.

Officials said some of the children's parents denied knowledge of the procedures, while others said they knew that Nagarwala had performed the procedures.

Nagarwala denies allegations

Nagarwala voluntarily spoke with an HSI special agent and said she is aware that FGM is illegal in the U.S. and that she had no knowledge of FGM being performed by anyone in her community. She said she had never performed FGM on any minor children and was not involved in any FGM procedures.

Court documents said there was probable cause to charge Nagarwala with FGM, transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and conspiracy and making a false statement to a federal agent.

This is believed to be the first case brought under a federal law that criminalizes female genital mutilation.

Henry Ford releases statement

Henry Ford Health System released a statement Thursday after the allegations against Nagarwala were released.

Here's the full statement:

"We were shocked by the allegations. The alleged criminal activity did not occur at any Henry Ford facility. We would never support or condone anything related to this practice.  The doctor has immediately been placed on administrative leave."

Nagarwala is scheduled to appear Thursday afternoon in federal court in Detroit.

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