There was something suspiciously vague about the Craigslist advertisement from the get-go. A man calling himself a “doctor” in Provo, Utah, said he was looking for female volunteers to participate in tests for unspecified new “medical devices.” Come to my office, the read the October posting, and get paid $200 for some “anatomy research.”
It’s not clear how many women responded to the advertisement, but at least three went to a downtown suite for “examination.” The first told police that a man claiming to be a physician photographed her genitals, then penetrated her with his fingers and a metal object. The second made nearly identical allegations.
The third woman was an undercover detective from the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. During an Oct. 25 sting operation disguised as an appointment, Borzin Mottaghian assured her he was a doctor and told her to take off her clothes, authorities said in a statement.
Moments later, police entered and arrested him. A search of the suite turned up “examination gloves and instruments allegedly used in the exam,” the Deseret News reported.
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On Tuesday, Mottaghian, 34, was charged with 17 felonies, including a dozen counts of object rape and two counts of forcible sex abuse. Authorities said he was not a doctor, nor did he possess any license that would allow him to perform medical exams.
Police records show Mottaghian was being held on $250,000 cash bail. It was not clear Wednesday night if he had retained an attorney or entered a plea.
Local media reported that Mottaghian as the owner of two Provo eateries, the Cocoa and Coffee Company cafe and the Cafe On Fire Persian restaurant. An IMDb page bearing his name shows he played minor roles in several films and television shows, including a driver in “Milk” starring Sean Penn. His biography says he came to the United States from Iran as a child in 1990. Those and other claims about his background remain unverified.
The sheriff’s office said in a statement that at least two women responded to Mottaghian’s Craigslist advertisement and reported his alleged sexual assault to police. Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Spencer Cannon added to the Deseret News: “We believe it’s very likely that there may be more victims.”
One woman who responded to the advertisement said she was told that an engineer and a doctor would perform tests on her, according to the sheriff’s office.
She arrived at the Provo office to find Mottaghian alone. He allegedly told her he was working on a new surgical catheter and had her sign a nondisclosure form and paperwork describing the supposed “research.” After instructing her to disrobe from the waist down, he took pictures of her genitals and “used his hands and other objects to penetrate her vagina and anus,” according to the sheriff’s office.
“As this ‘exam’ continued the victim became uncomfortable with his actions,” authorities said.
Mottaghian gave the second victim similar instructions, telling her he was developing a new tampon, authorities said. The Salt Lake Tribune, citing court documents, described how the woman then tried to back out of the “examination”:
“The woman felt ‘disturbed by the nature of the examination, put her clothes on and excused herself to go use the restroom,’ documents say.
“After about 20 minutes, she told police, she returned to the examination room, where Mottaghian ‘convinced her to repeat the examination’ before paying her the $200.
“Neither of the women would have consented to the contact had they known the ‘true nature of the exam,’ court documents say.”
After the women came forward, the undercover detective emailed Mottaghian to set up an appointment, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. He was arrested before any “examination” took place.
Cannon, the sheriff’s spokesman, told the Deseret News that other women may have gone through the same process without realizing that Mottaghian was an alleged fraud.
“Medical exams are inherently uncomfortable in some situations anyway, depending on the nature of the exam or the medical procedure,” he said. “But it went beyond what might be normally uncomfortable in all of these cases.”