- Associated Press - Friday, February 5, 2016

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) - A central Pennsylvania psychologist who used “touching therapy” on two female sexual trauma patients will spend three to six years in prison.

That’s because state prosecutors said the therapy was bogus and amounted to sexual abuse.

Richard Lenhart, 54, of State College, was sentenced in Centre County. He previously pleaded no contest to two counts of indecent assault and one count of insurance fraud for billing insurance companies more than $71,000 for the treatments.

The judge also ruled Lenhart was a sexually violent predator who must register his address with the state police once he gets out of prison.

The charges filed nearly two years ago by the state attorney general’s office grew out of a misconduct investigation by the state Board of Psychology. The board had revoked Lenhart’s license in 2012 and fined him more than $68,000 for more than 100 counts of professional misconduct.

Lenhart appealed those penalties and denied that he had inappropriate conduct with the women. Although he acknowledged sexual acts with one patient in his office, he argued it was part of her treatment, according to his disciplinary file.

The two patients involved in the criminal charges were both victims of previous sexual trauma, state prosecutors said. Lenhart “treated” them between January 2008 and November 2011 by caressing and groping them, which he described as “touching therapy,” state prosecutors said.

The licensing board found that Lenhart was “re-traumatizing them in his role as psychologist” and rather than helping the women was grooming them for future sexual abuse.

Lenhart was charged with insurance fraud because prosecutors contend the treatments weren’t legitimate.

Lenhart was sentenced Thursday. His defense attorney didn’t immediately comment Friday.

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