Lakewood Ranch man sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of multiple felony counts of practicing as a health care professional without a license

Phillip Stutzman also ordered to pay $65,000 in restitution to victims

Phillip J. Stutzman. Photo courtesy Sarasota Police Department

On July 22, Phillip Jay Stutzman, 45, of 6540 The Masters Ave. in Lakewood Ranch, pleaded no contest, was adjudicated guilty, and was sentenced to five years in prison with the Florida Department of Corrections — along with 10 years of probation — after being charged in 2019 with multiple felony counts of Unlicensed Practice of a Healthcare Professional, the Sarasota Police Department reported.

According to at least 13 victims, Stutzman, who also was known as Dr. Phillip Nikao, “had been providing counseling/therapy services under false pretenses, misrepresentations, and without a license between October 2016 and January 2019,” a news release explained. Stutzman claimed to have a master’s degree in neuroscience and a doctorate in psychology that he had obtained online, the release added.

Beginning in 2016, the release noted, Stutzman was providing services for individuals who had been sexually abused and for individuals with weight and anxiety problems.

After Sarasota Police Department detectives contacted the Florida Department of Health, investigators with that agency reported that they could not find any records of valid licenses for Stutzman or for a person with the last name of Nikao, the release pointed out. Detectives also contacted the university from which Stutzman claimed he had earned his degrees; they learned that the degrees had been falsified, the release said.

The probable cause affidavit the Police Department filed with the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in June 2019 says Stutzman was operating out of an office located in Suite 750 at 1990 Main St. in downtown Sarasota.

Manatee County Property Appraiser Office records show that the Lakewood Ranch address listed as Stutzman’s home at the time of his arrest was owned by a company based in Calabasas, Calif. — AMH Roman Two FL LLC. The Florida Division of Corporations identifies that company as being associated with another firm called American Homes 4 Rent II. LLC.

The probable cause affidavit referenced a statement provided to the Police Department. Based on research, the statement said, Stutzman “has no higher education and unlikely even a GED. … His advertisements and sales pitches are based on his education and experience with leaders in the industry to convince clients to pay very high rates for his services, while putting people at risk …”

The affadivit added that the complainant told Police Department personnel that “it appeared that Stutzman did not take insurance and did not have malpractice insurance at all.”

The detective who signed the affidavit noted that he “was provided with a multitude of paperwork,” including various pages, with photographs of Stutzman, from Facebook, Instagram, Mixcloud.com, Sarasotaunderground.com and other websites that identified Stutzman as Dr. Phillip Nikao.

This is a street view of the building at 1990 Main St. Image from Point2

Further, the detective indicated that he had seen “multiple videos” in which Stutzman made presentations, identifying himself as Dr. Nikao.

The affidavit also provided information about the statement of a woman who met with detectives. She reported that someone recommended “Dr. Nikao” to her after a divorce. As a result, the affidavit added, she agreed to pay him approximately $2,400 for 12 sessions. “After a short while,” the affiavit continued, she was required to pay him about $1,600; that action followed her recommending patients to him.

The woman told detectives that Stutzman’s speciality was sexual abuse. She further reported that “she never saw any educational degrees on the wall,” as she usually did in doctors’ offices, the affidavit said.

Additionally, the woman told detectives “that Stutzman brought up the topic of sex multiple times, and that his comments and actions were off a little.” The affidavit added, “She also told us that during the last session [with him], he had kissed her on her lips.”

Later, in November or December 2018, the woman added, Stutzman “told her that he no longer wanted to present himself as a doctor, but wanted to be a ‘life coach.’ During that session,” the affidavit said, the woman recalled having a conversation with him about his not being a doctor. She “thought it was strange,” the affidavit continued, that someone could just relinquish “on their own accord” the status of being a doctor.

Then Stutzman told the woman that he had been taking online classes based in California. He added, “‘I’ve learned to just let it be.’ He said that the ‘degree’ is between you and me,’” the woman told the detectives.

Circuit Judge Rochelle Curry. Image from the 12th Judicial Circuit website

In addition to being sentenced to five years in prison and 10 years of probation, the Police Department news release pointed out, “Stutzman has been ordered not to practice as a life coach/therapist and has been ordered to pay at least $65,000 in restitution to the victims.”

The restitution order identified 10 persons, according to 12th Judicial Circuit Court records. One person is supposed to receive $12,000, while two others are due $10,000 each, the order says. The remaining amounts range from $1,600 to $8,000.

Circuit Judge Rochelle Curley presided over the court case, 12th Circuit records note.

“This is a case that Sarasota Police Detective Ross Revill has been persistently working on since it was assigned to him in 2019,” said Criminal Investigations Division Capt. Johnathan Todd in the release. “We’re thankful for the victims who had the courage to come forward and let us know what happened,” Todd added in the release.

Moreover, Todd noted, “[Police Department] Victim Advocate Jude Castro worked tirelessly and diligently to stay in contact with every victim. This man preyed on innocent people who were looking for help when they were most vulnerable. This outcome brings a resolution to the victims in this case and makes our community safe,” Todd said in the release.

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