Dr. Jumana Nagarwala of Northville, Michigan, was arrested Wednesday and arraigned on Thursday, according to a Department of Justice press release. She is charged with three felonies: Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and conspiracy; and making a false statement to a federal officer, according to the criminal complaint filed Wednesday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
“According to the complaint, despite her oath to care for her patients, Dr. Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco said in the announcement. “The Department of Justice is committed to stopping female genital mutilation in this country, and will use the full power of the law to ensure that no girls suffer such physical and emotional abuse.”
Nagarwala purportedly carried out FGM on two 7-year-old girls in a medical office in Livonia, Michigan, according to the complaint, despite never having billed patients for any procedure from there. The FBI doesn’t even believe she works there, but rather an emergency room in Detroit.
The Detroit News reported that a 44-year-old physician of the same name is listed on the Henry Ford Health System website as having hospital privileges in Detroit and West Bloomfield Township. A spokesman with Henry Ford confirmed to the news outlet that Nagarwala works in the system and was on administrative leave.
The DOJ believes this is the first case brought under Title 18, US Code, Section 116, which criminalizes FGM, or “knowingly circumcis[ing], excis[ing], or infibulat[ing] the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years,” according to the announcement.
The criminal complaint describes Nagarwala as “a member of the community” that for religious or cultural reasons, mutilates female private parts, in order to “suppress female sexuality in an attempt to reduce sexual pleasure and promiscuity.”
A court order dating back to February revealed Nagarwala’s phone records, which the FBI found showed calls between her and a Minnesota family of a girl who just turned 7, who is referred to in the complaint as Minnesota Victim One, or MN-V-1.
MN-V-1 told an FBI child forensic interviewer she was on a “‘special’ girls' trip” with another 7-year-old girl, referred to as MN-V-2 in the complaint, when they saw a doctor because “our tummies hurt.” MN-V-1 was told not to talk about what the doctor did “to get the germs out.”
The FBI also obtained security camera footage showing the girls with adults at a hotel in Michigan the night before the alleged FGM operation.
MN-V-2 said she “got a shot” and that her parents said it was a secret. She described to the FBI being barely able to walk and feeling pain down to her ankle. Her parents told agents she received a “cleansing” of extra skin.
The FBI believes other children may have been victims from 2005 to 2007, including some who live in Michigan.
During an interview with a federal agent, Nagarwala was told that making false statements to a federal officer was a criminal offense, according to the complaint. She then acknowledged FGM was illegal in the US, but that she had no knowledge of FGM being performed in her community, and claimed never to have performed it on minors, or to have been involved in any such procedures.
Both FGM and making a false statement to a federal officer are felonies that carry a five-year prison sentence, while transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity is a 10-year felony.
The Detroit News reported she appeared in front of Magistrate Judge Anthony Patti on Thursday wearing a “light-colored, matching dress and khimar, or veil that covered her head, neck and shoulders.”
The judge reportedly scheduled a detention hearing Monday afternoon, where her lawyer and the DOJ will make their cases as to whether she should or not be held in prison while awaiting trial. Until Monday, however, she will be behind bars.
Female genital mutilation is an internationally recognized violation of human rights.
Detroit — A Detroit emergency room physician was charged Wednesday with mutilating the genitalia of two 7-year-old girls in what is believed to be the first case of its kind brought under federal law.
Jumana Nagarwala of Livonia was charged with female genital mutilation, a five-year felony, and transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, a 10-year felony, according to a complaint unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court.
“According to the complaint, despite her oath to care for her patients, Dr. Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said in a statement. “The Department of Justice is committed to stopping female genital mutilation in this country, and will use the full power of the law to ensure that no girls suffer such physical and emotional abuse.”
Nagarwala was arrested Wednesday night and arraigned in federal court Thursday.
She was dressed in a light-colored, matching dress and khimar, or veil that covered her head, neck and shoulders.
Magistrate Judge Anthony Patti scheduled a detention hearing in the case for 1 p.m. Monday. Her attorney and the government will argue over whether or not Nagarwala should be held in prison while she awaits trial.
In the meantime, Nagarwala will be held in jail until Monday's hearing.
Her attorney, Shannon Smith, who has offices in Bloomfield Hills, declined to comment on the case Thursday.
Nagarwala’s employer is not identified in court records. But a 44-year-old emergency room physician with the same name is listed on Henry Ford Health System’s website with hospital privileges in Detroit and West Bloomfield Township.
A Henry Ford spokesman confirmed that Nagarwala works for the hospital system and said she has been put on administrative leave.
“The alleged criminal activity did not occur at any Henry Ford facility,” health system spokesman David Olejarz said Thursday. “We would never support or condone anything related to this practice.”
The FBI investigation alleges Nagarwala removed clitoral skin from two girls who were brought to Detroit earlier this year, activity that violates both federal and state law regarding female genital mutilation.
Female genital mutilation is an internationally recognized violation of human rights and is popular among certain religious and cultural communities, according to the FBI. The procedure is believed to initiate girls into adulthood and ensure their marriageability, according to Human Rights Watch, a New York nonprofit human rights organization.
The practice is most common in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, along with migrants from those regions, according to the World Health Organization.
Worldwide, an estimated 140 million women and girls have undergone the procedure, according to the World Health Organization. More than 3 million girls in Africa undergo the procedure each year.
“Female genital mutilation constitutes a particularly brutal form of violence against women and girls,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Lemisch said in a statement. “It is also a serious federal felony in the United States. The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law.”
The case against Nagarwala dates to at least February. The FBI had launched an investigation after receiving a tip that Nagarwala performed female genital mutilation on 7-year-old girls at a Livonia medical clinic, according to the criminal complaint.
Nagarwala does not work at the clinic and there are no billing records indicating that she has performed medical procedures there, according to the complaint.
In February, FBI agents obtained a court order to review Nagarwala’s phone. The records showed several calls between Nagarwala’s phone and a Minnesota phone number, according to the FBI.
Agents learned the Minnesota phone number was linked to a family that included a 7-year-old girl.
Agents reviewed records for the Minnesota phone and learned from cell tower data that the phone was near motels in Farmington Hills on Feb. 3 before being returned to Minnesota the next day.
Hotel records helped show two families, each with a young girl, stayed at the hotel on Feb. 3. Surveillance video from the unnamed hotel show two adult women and two girls checking into the hotel.
Seven days later, an FBI child forensic interviewer talked to one of the girls, who said she was brought to Detroit with a second girl for a “special girls’ trip,” according to the FBI.
After arriving in Farmington Hills, the girls were taken to a doctor because “their tummies hurt.”
“While at the doctor’s office, a procedure ‘to get the germs out,’” was performed on the first girl, according to the criminal complaint. The girl was shown a photo of Nagarwala and said she was the doctor who performed the procedure, according to the FBI.
The girl told the FBI that Nagarwala “pinched” her on the “place (where) she goes pee,’” the government alleges.
“(The girl) said that she was told not to talk about the procedure,” FBI Special Agent Kevin Swanson wrote in the complaint.
A subsequent medical examination showed that the girl’s genitals did not appear normal and a section had been altered or removed, according to the court filing.
“Finally, the doctor observed some scar tissue and small healing lacerations,” the agent wrote.
The second girl said she underwent a procedure and identified Nagarwala as the doctor she visited in Detroit, according to the complaint.
“She said that she ‘got a shot,’ and that it hurt really badly and she screamed,” the FBI agent wrote. “Her parents told her that the procedure is a secret and that she is not supposed to talk about it.
“(The girl) said that after the procedure, she could barely walk, and that she felt pain all the way down to her ankle,” the agent continued.
A subsequent medical exam showed the girl’s genitalia had a small incision and a small tear.
On Monday, Minnesota Child Protective Services personnel and a federal agent interviewed the second girl’s parents. They confirmed the trip to Detroit, saying they took the girl to see Nagarwala for a “cleansing” of extra skin, according to the court filing.
Agents have identified other children who may have been victimized by the doctor between 2005 and 2007, including children in Michigan, according to the FBI agent.
“The allegations against the defendant in this investigation are made even more deplorable, given the defendant’s position as a trusted medical professional in the community,” Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Steve Francis said in a statement. “My sincere hope is that these charges will give support to those who have allegedly suffered both physically and emotionally.”
Federal officials said the case appears to be the first of its kind nationwide. Though a few cases in other jurisdictions involved plotting about performing female genital mutilation, it does not appear anyone was charged with allegedly carrying out a circumcision.
Last year, the FBI tried to raise awareness about the crime, saying an estimated 513,000 women and girls nationwide – most of whom live in metropolitan areas – were at risk of undergoing a procedure that has been a federal crime since 1996.
During a voluntary interview with investigators, Nagarwala denied performing female genital mutilation on minor children and said she was not involved in any such procedure, according to the complaint.
“The allegations detailed in today’s criminal complaint are disturbing, David Gelios, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit office said in a statement. “The FBI, along with its law enforcement partners, are committed to doing whatever necessary to bring an end to this barbaric practice and to ensure no additional children fall victim to this procedure.”
The FBI is asking anyone with information about the doctor and female genital mutilation to call 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5984).