Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz is asking for help from the public as investigators try to identify several unknown women who were allegedly raped or sexually abused on camera by Dr. Zhi Alan Cheng, a former gastroenterologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Queens.
Cheng was arraigned Monday on a 50-count indictment charging him with committing sex crimes against three female patients inside the hospital along with three other women inside his Astoria apartment.
“The recovered evidence compiled paints the picture of a sexual predator of the absolute worst kind, a serial rapist, someone willing to not only violate his sacred professional oath and patients’ trust, but every standard of human decency as well,” Katz said.
The indictment comes two months after the NBC New York I-Team and Telemundo 47 Investiga were first to report on allegations from one of Cheng’s alleged victims: a 19-year-old who said the physician drugged and sexually assaulted her inside a hospital exam room while she was awaiting gall bladder surgery in 2021.
Now, prosecutors believe that 19-year-old victim was one of more than 13 women who were each rendered unconscious and then raped or sexually abused by Cheng as he recorded video of the crimes. According to Katz, at least six of the unconscious victims who were assaulted on video are females of unknown identity.
But a key clue as to who they might be lies in the video file geo-location data, which prosecutors say shows the sex crimes were committed in Cheng’s Queens apartment, in Westchester County, in Manhattan, and other cities thousands of miles away.
“These videos, we know they were taken not only in the hospital as well, but also in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and in Thailand,” Katz said. “It’s important for people to reach out to us to make identifications.”
Cheng has pleaded not guilty to the sex crime charges, which carry the potential for multiple sentences of 25 years to life in prison if proven.
During the execution of a search warrant at Cheng’s home, prosecutors say they discovered digital media storage devices containing videos of alleged sex crimes along with narcotics, including fentanyl, ketamine, and MDMA, as well as sedatives used in health care settings like Propofol and sevoflurane.
Reached via phone, Cheng’s defense attorney Jeffry Lichtman said he did not have enough evidence to make a substantive comment.
“We recognize the charges are incredibly serious,” Lichtman said. “We have not had a chance to see the evidence or review it. Until then, all I’d be doing is speculating.”
A New York doctor was criminally charged and indicted in April after allegedly fondling underage patients. While the doctor denies the allegations, the I-Team has learned at least one former patient complained to health regulators five years before the physician was arrested. NBC New York’s Chris Glorioso reports.
Nicholas Liakas, an attorney suing New York-Presbyterian on behalf of the 19-year-old victim, said the hospital should notify every patient who has ever come into contact with Cheng that he is criminally accused of being a sexual predator.
“This is something we specifically asked for in our complaint which was to notify patients or any individuals that he may have come into contact with that these allegations are out there and there are multiple victims and there are videos that will support these accounts,” Liakas said. “Presbyterian has remained silent on that issue.”
A spokesperson for New York-Presbyterian declined to say whether all of Cheng’s patients have been notified about the allegations against him, referring the NBC New York I-Team to a statement the hospital issued back in June. That statement expressed outrage about Cheng’s alleged conduct and confirmed he was fired in December 2022.
“The crimes committed by this individual are heinous, despicable, and a fundamental betrayal of our mission and our patients’ trust. We are appalled and deeply saddened by what these victims and their families have endured,” the statement read.
According to the Queens DA’s Office, the videos discovered in Cheng’s home include a 2021 recording of the unconscious 19-year-old female patient being sexually abused inside the hospital, a 2021 recording of an unconscious 37-year-old female patient being sexually abused inside the hospital, and a 2022 recording of a 47-year-old female patient being abused inside the hospital while she was seriously ill. Prosecutors say they have four other videos from inside Cheng’s apartment showing the rape of two women who were acquaintances of the physician and two other women whom he met online dating.
Prosecutors say the women Cheng allegedly raped inside his apartment each woke up with no memory of the sex crimes, but one of them happed to find the video of her own assault and reported it to police. That initial report led to the filing of a first indictment in December of last year. The superseding indictment announced this week includes six other alleged victims.
Investigators are still working to identify an additional six women seen on videos, apparently unconscious while Cheng allegedly assaulted them.
Anyone with information about the alleged unknown victims depicted on videos found in Cheng’s possession is asked to contact the Queens District Attorney Special Victims Bureau at SpecialVictims@queensda.org or to call 718-286-6505.
The Brooklyn DA allegedly dropped a victim’s sex abuse case without ever notifying the victim, Sarah Wallace reports.