(Reuters) - Los Angeles police said on Tuesday that they had launched a criminal investigation into accusations that a gynaecologist at the University of Southern California engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct with students over a 26-year period.
Officials said the investigation would have international scope as they seek input from up to 10,000 women who were treated by Dr. George Tyndall at USC’s student health clinic.
The scandal has prompted more than a dozen lawsuits and forced the resignation of the institution’s president.
Police so far have the names of 52 women who have said that Tyndall, 71, touched them, spoke to them inappropriately or engaged in other misconduct while examining them as a USC doctor from 1990 to 2016, Deputy Chief Justin Eisenberg said at a news conference in Los Angeles.
Police will work closely with the Medical Board of California, which licenses doctors, and will ultimately refer any evidence of criminal wrongdoing to prosecutors, Eisenberg said.
Tyndall, who resigned from USC last year, could not be reached by Reuters for comment on Tuesday. In interviews with the Los Angeles Times he has denied any wrongdoing and defended his medical exams.
The university has acknowledged failing to properly act on at least eight complaints made against Tyndall between 2000 and 2014. Several former patients have filed civil lawsuits, and one accusation made in a sworn declaration that was made public last week dates back to 1991.
Last week, 200 of the university’s faculty members called for the resignation of USC President C.L. Max Nikias, and more than 2,200 students, alumni and others at USC signed a similar petition online. He stepped down over the weekend.
Tyndall resigned from the university after an internal inquiry found that some of his examination practices were beyond accepted medical standards and that he had harassed patients.
Captain William Hayes, who heads the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide division, said so far 39 former patients had agreed to speak with investigators. He said police were seeking input from as many as 10,000 women who were his patients over the years.
It was too soon to know if criminal charges would be brought against Tyndall, Hayes said.
A hotline set up by USC has received nearly 400 reports from patients, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
The Chinese government has also voiced “deep concern” over reports that many of Tyndall’s alleged victims were students from China.
Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Editing by Toni Reinhold