Former doctor pleads guilty to trying to get nude photo of teen girl

GREENSBURG (AP) — A former physician who lost his license over a sex-for-pills case in 2002 pleaded guilty Monday to attempting to possess explicit cellphone pictures of a 15-year-old girl.

The plea agreement calls for 60-year-old Robert Franzino, a former emergency room physician from Greensburg, to receive 6 1/2 years in prison when he’s sentenced Feb. 27 in federal court.

Franzino was arrested by state authorities in March on charges he set up a sexual encounter with the 15-year-old. Federal prosecutors took over the case in May and indicted him on a charge of enticing the girl into an underage sexual relationship, which carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.

Defense attorney Stanton Levenson said Franzino agreed to plead guilty to the lesser related charge to avoid a potentially longer sentence.

Levenson had tried unsuccessfully to have the original federal charge thrown out, claiming prosecutors engaged in “outrageous conduct” to nab Franzino. U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab rejected that accusation.

Franzino knew the girl and sent her Facebook messages in September 2015 offering a “win-win arrangement.”

The comments, Levenson said, were ambiguous and never acted upon.

The girl didn’t see the messages until February and brought them to the attention of her father, who contacted Greensburg police. A Greensburg detective, using the girl’s Facebook account, messaged Franzino and continued the social media exchange, and Franzino requested a nude photo from the girl of her “body in all its glory” and offered her $50 for a sex act.

“It is clear that but for the sting operation, no crime would have been committed,” Levenson wrote.

He also argued that the only reason police targeted Franzino was because of his criminal history, which federal prosecutors denied.

Franzino was working at Westmoreland Regional Hospital in Greensburg when he was charged in 2002 with prescribing painkillers to four women in return for sex or the expectation of sex.

Franzino received 10 years of probation after pleading guilty to related felony counts of insurance fraud and misdemeanor counts of violating the state’s pharmacy laws. He told the judge his actions were trigged by a major bout of depression. Franzino surrendered his state medical license and the federal license that allowed him to prescribe medications.