CHAPTER 3—ARROGANT WEASEL
Justine Harman A listener’s note: The following series includes descriptions of violence, sexual assault, and grooming. It is not recommended for young audiences.
Justine Harman: After the CODIS hit that changed everything, DA investigators spent a year building their case against Dr. Grant Robicheaux and Cerissa Riley. They wanted to know everything about this couple. Who were Grant and Cerissa before they met? And how did they end up living in a swanky Newport townhouse and indulging in a “lifestyle” of sex, drugs, and mind-altering music festivals together? Their research likely took them to the same place it took me: a modest red brick split-level with green shutters deep in the heart of Louisiana.
Jennifer Perron: You have to understand, we rode bikes in neighborhoods together. We went bike riding with other groups of kids and we got ice cream. As Mayberry as it sounds, we got ice cream. We went to the mall. We played Nintendo when that was cool.
When I saw the news about him, I said, “How is that possible?” I didn’t believe it. I had to go and look and I was like, “Wait, what?”
I had to go and really, truly look, and I was like, “That’s not Grant. Oh my God, that is Grant.” I just heard Dr. Grant Robicheaux. And I was like, “No,” because there’s so many Robicheauxs. There’s so many Thibodeauxs. There’s so many Heberts.
I was just like, “There’s no way.” So I went and looked at the picture. I was like … I was like, “That’s him.” I was like, “There’s no way. There’s no way he could have done this.” It’s like, “Somebody framed him.”
Justine Harman: From Justine Harman and audiochuck, this is O.C. Swingers, chapter three: “Arrogant Weasel”
Justine Harman: This friend, whom I’ll call Kate, says she met Grant Robicheaux at a mutual friend’s birthday party the summer before eighth grade in Lafayette, Louisiana. Though they went to different high schools, and eventually lost touch, they stayed friends on Facebook.
Jennifer Perron: I would see posts every now and then and I was like, ‘Oh my God, he’s a doctor. He’s doing so well for himself.’ I mean, eventually I was going to see, ‘Hey, we got engaged to somebody, Hey, I got married. Hey, I’m having kids,’ standard stuff. I never really would Facebook stalk anybody. I don’t have time.
Justine Harman: Kate has five kids now. She’s raised them all in Youngsville, which is about five minutes outside Lafayette. It’s a good place to grow up, she says. Good values—and a strong sense of community.
Jennifer Perron: Everybody knows everybody. Some way or another, somebody is related to somebody down the road, third cousin, fourth cousin.
I mean, it sounds very hillbilly-ish and backwater, but we’re not.
Everybody is close-knit family. Everybody is willing to help somebody. We prefer mom and pops grocery stores, small businesses. That’s what thrives. That’s what goes here in Lafayette. And we’re always willing to help one another in any type of situation.
Video audio: And one pastime, in particular, that reigns supreme in Lafayette
Jennifer Perron: Football in Lafayette, I mean, it’s Friday Night Lights.
Football’s a lot for people because it just shows how hard these boys have worked, basically from June, all the way … Especially if they make it to playoffs, they have really shown how hard they have worked and they’ve put in the effort, showing off their athleticism and showing of what hard work can do. So, I mean, I guess that just goes into life. If you work at hard something and you want it enough, I mean, you’re going to win.
Justine Harman: And Grant was good at football. A 1998 article in The Daily Advertiser, a local paper that’s been servicing the people of Lafayette since 1865, highlighted his skill as a newly- minted senior linebacker, a position not typically reserved for guys well under 200 pounds. “He’s just got a great nose for football,” Lafayette High School head coach Bobby Green told the paper. “Just when you think he’s out of the picture, he’s right there making the tackle.” The article, titled “Lions’ moment of truth” set up Grant and his teammates as tough competition for local football dynasty Carencro. Just to situate you, ESPN visited Carencro back in the ’90s and
ESPN Video: “[Drums and bird call] Y’all got to remember [clears throat] that you’re in South Louisiana. Football’s important to everybody down here. Down here is in the heart of Cajun country. Life is a spicy gumbo of music, food, and football. And they love their football in Carencro.
Justine Harman: So, yeah, Lafayette is the deep south. It has that subtropical climate—hot, moist summers followed by warm, damp winters. Families with French-sounding surnames go back to the 1700s here. And Grant Robicheaux is as Lafayette as it gets.
His parents, Melissa Ann Molett, or “Missy,” and Brad Robicheaux both attended Lafayette High School, where Brad played defensive back for the Mighty Lions football team. Brad and Missy also attended USL, or what is now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and married on campus on August 31, 1974. The wedding was a big story in Lafayette: The next day, The Daily Advertiser ran a portrait of 21-year-old Missy looking wistful in her “heirloom ivory silk organza” wedding gown and covered every detail from the bride’s white rose and baby’s breath nosegay to her honeymoon outfit, which was described as “a dusty blue pantsuit with a print blouse of complementary colors and matching accessories.”
Three years later, the couple welcomed their first child, a daughter named Jennifer. Then came Grant, on August 28, 1980. In 1982, The Daily Advertiser wrote of Brad’s promotion to area supervisor for an oil well preparation company called Completion Services of Lafayette. The following year, the couple had a second daughter, Blair.
But in 1986, Brad was featured in a different regional paper: the Jackson Hole News. In a piece titled “Cajun Lives!” the Louisiana transplant is pictured sporting a walrus mustache and cooking crawfish for “the first Annual Moose, Wyoming Cajun Cookout.” He’s described as the manager of the “fashionable Lost Creek Ranch” and a man with “a number of enterprises in motion at all times—from operating duck and alligator hunting camps in the bayou to importing such delicacies as crawfish tails, alligator meat, and spicy pecan smoked hams.” There is no mention of his wife or kids.
In 1988, after several years of living nearly 2,000 miles apart, Missy officially filed for divorce and petitioned for $600-a-month in child support. They quickly agreed to joint custody, with the provision that all three children—now 10, 7, and 5—would technically live with their mom in Louisiana. And on July 25, 1988, they were legally divorced. Four months later, Brad was remarried and living full time in Wyoming.
By 1992, things had gotten ugly. The previous year Missy had remarried a man named Ogden Clarence Guilliot. And in a brief filed to the Lafayette district court, she alleged that Brad was trying to “lure the children away from their mother and to convince them that she is incapable of caring for them, and to convince them that they cannot receive an adequate education, nor can they live in a wholesome atmosphere in the state of Louisiana.” Two months later, in response to a story about a local father winning a custody battle, sixth grade Grant penned an Op-Ed for The Advertiser: “I think a child should be able to divorce a parent,” he wrote. “A kid should not have to be scared in his own home.” The paper included his home address. Grant was ordered by a judge to stay in Louisiana.
The bitter custody battle continued. At one point, Brad’s parents—Grant’s grandparents—filed for fixed visitation rights including 15-minute calls on report card day. In 1995, Brad made one last big play to get Grant to Wyoming. He claimed that not being able to live with his father “would have serious psychological consequences” on his only son. He contended that Wyoming is “an environment conducive to the development of young men” and that, while Grant enjoyed spending time with his stepmother Carrie Jo, the boy had a “strained relationship” with Missy’s new husband. He also admitted to living in a 1,000 square foot, two bedroom cabin located six miles from the nearest public road with no central air, heat, or air conditioning. The motion was once again denied.
Justine Harman: Despite his eagerness to get out of Lafayette, after graduating from high school in 1999, Grant enrolled at Louisiana State University. The school, which is considered the best public university in Louisiana, is about an hour drive from his childhood home. To celebrate the achievement, Missy placed an ad in her son’s senior yearbook: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams,” read the Henry David Thoreau quote between an old school picture and Grant’s senior portrait. “Live the life you have imagined.”
Grant wasn’t big enough to play college football, especially at LSU, but his speed and athleticism made him an asset to the rugby team. While two of his high school teammates became SEC football champs his junior year, a club rugby roster lists Grant as playing “wing” alongside guys with nicknames like “Chunks,” “Squirrelly,” and “Poon Tang.” His size was a source of amusement to his teammates. In fact, it’s a recurring refrain. So many people I talked to referenced it. When I mentioned to a former colleague that Grant’s license says he’s 5’10” he practically did a spittake. “Horse shit,” he said. “He’s, like, 5’7″—maybe.”
Later, in professional bios, Grant would say that his college rugby career was cut short when he tore his ACL. The injury, he said, is what inspired him to become a surgeon. He graduated from LSU in 2003 with honors—I checked: summa cum laude, which means he had a GPA of at least 3.9—then LSU med school in 2007 at the top of his class, before relocating to Orange County to complete a residency at UC-Irvine in the prestigious field of Orthopedic Surgery.
But not everyone in the medical community was impressed with Grant’s bonafides.
In a private Facebook group populated by Orange County physicians, anesthesiologists, and other medical professionals in the “Ortho-adjacent community,” some of his former classmates weighed the allegations against their former classmate. I have reviewed the comments—and our fact checker Barbara has vetted the veracity of this group—but the person who shared the comments with me has requested anonymity. That’s another thing: Doctors don’t like talking shit about other doctors—not in public anyway. But online, among the ranks of their peers, people have called into question Grant’s med school reputation:
One wrote, “He was a resident when I was a resident there, a year behind me, I believe. He rotated through the ER and I would consult him on Ortho sometimes. He was an arrogant weasel.”
Another offered: “I had no affiliation with him except hating him during school.”
Another: “I am not shocked it was him. Makes me wonder what he was doing even back then.”
And another: “I have a few people that I expected to get arrested. He was on the list, but I never expected him to spend time in prison because he’s the privileged type who always weasels his way out of it.”
But Grant didn’t have to be popular. By 2013 he was already involved in his own private practice. And his patients seemed satisfied—if not a bit familiar:
Missy Guiliot: Hi, I’m Missy Guiliot, and I’m here to tell you why Grant Robicheaux is who I’d recommend for any orthopedic problem. I’m a sixty-year-old active female. I like to run, lift weights. I swim. do yoga. I snow ski—
Justine Harman: Remember the name Missy Guillot? Yeah, that’s Grant’s mom recommending her son’s services back in 2013. Honestly, it would be kind of cute if there was any indication, anywhere, that this is a mom gushing about her own son’s medical expertise:
Missy Guiliot: I saw an Orthopedic surgeon, and he was not very sympathetic to how badly I needed to get back full strength and range of motion in the shoulder. In fact, his prognosis for my recovery was dim. Then, several other doctors recommended that I go see Grant Robicheaux, and I did.
Justine Harman: There are a few of these online. Poorly shot testimonials seemingly directed by Robicheaux. In one you can seemingly hear him say “go” as the camera begins to roll.
Grant Robicheaux: Go
PATIENT: I went to the doctor office and I’m very happy and the staff is so friendly and now I will start a new beginning. He gave me treatment to do, and I will get better.
Justine Harman: In chapter one I talked a bit about NewportCare, the medical group Grant eventually bought into as a partner in April 2014 alongside his friend and roommate Dr. Damien Burgess and a spine surgeon named Dr. Kasra Rowshan. The month after he officially joined the practice, the trio also established an LLC they named RRB Investments, after their last names.
Amber Bodnar: My name is Amber Bodnar, and I worked from NewportCare I do believe 2014 to 2016.
Justine Harman: This is Amber Bodnar. She started out part-time at NewportCare in 2014, but quickly became an integral part of the practice. When we connected back in July, she had just had a baby. If you hear little thumps during her interview, that’s because she’s burping a three- week-old.
Amber Bodnar: I started out part-time, a receptionist, and by the time I left I was basically in charge of the entire clinic.
When I started I actually was brought in by Damien Burgess, who is one of the owners, and he and I went to high school together and that’s how I was brought in. Then there was Kasra Rowshan and he was also one of the partners, and there was Doctor Mohtadi who was our urgent care provider, and then Doctor Sabrall was our primary care provider. Then shortly after Doctor Robicheaux came into the practice.
Justine Harman: Pretty quickly, Amber learned how to get in step with her new boss.
Amber Bodnar: When they brought him on, I met with him at the A Restaurant which was right next door. We had breakfast and it was just to go over his preferences and what he was looking for in his practice, how he wants things ran, all of that, just to get familiar with it. Then, from then on, I was just his right arm in the practice.
It became, I mean I ordered all medications, I scheduled all surgeries, all the equipment or braces for after surgery. I ran the clinic side of it, so I roomed all his patients, I would draw blood. Everything from start to finish of that day was done through me and for him it just became like, well anything I ask of this person she gets done, so anything he needed was, ‘Call Amber. Call Amber.’
He was cocky and arrogant, but not in a hurtful way towards anybody, but I never took anything to heart with him. He could come in and just unload and whereas some people might take offense to it I just, that was his personality, I got it, who he was and it was just like, okay here’s what needs to be done and then you moved forward.
Justine Harman: Amber seems to have only good things to say about her time at NewportCar—and her former boss. In my opinion, mythically good, but you be the judge:
Amber Bodnar: Since our company was so small it really was like a little family. We, or I should say, they would take us out to dinner all of us for our birthdays, we would have lunches brought in for our clinic.
He was from Louisiana, so every year around Mardi Gras he would order the kings cake and have it sent to our office and have us experience that kind of stuff with him. One of the office girls, her child was going through an issue with drugs and he basically gave her money to send her kid to rehab and you don’t have to pay it back.
There was another girl that was having issues with, I think her drivers license was suspended, something like that, he gave her the money to fix all that with the courts. It was like you don’t have to pay it back, that’s the environment I was in with him.
I was a single mom and at that point in time, like I said my son was in first grade, so I would take him to school, come to work, I would use my lunch break to then go pick him up from school and then he would come back to the office with me and he would sit there and he would do homework and he would sit in the back break room.
One of the other providers didn’t like that, that I would bring my son, and Robicheaux always had my back with that. He would always stand up and say no, she’s a single mom, she works really hard and I think that goes back to him and his childhood and how he was raised with his mom, and he’s like, she’s doing everything she can to both be a mom and get the job done and I can appreciate that and I’m okay with it. He’s not disruptive. It doesn’t cause an issue for the clinic. He was always supportive in that aspect.
Justine Harman: For about a year, their little family was happy—and lucrative. According to a civil suit Rowshan and Robicheaux filed against Burgess in February 2016, RRB LLC brought in over $600,000 in net profits between May 2014 and May 2015. They accused Damien of owing the practice $200,000 and of spreading rumors that the operation was illegally run. In a counter complaint, Burgess alleges that, on October 30, 2015, after he had been pushed out of the company, Robicheaux followed him to his car and threatened him by saying Rowashan was “out for blood” and would make sure he never practiced in Newport Beach again. I reached out to Burgess and Rowshan, but they did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.
The matter of NewportCare Medical Group vs. Damien Burgess was settled out of court, but Burgess isn’t the only one who thought things weren’t entirely above board.
A source with knowledge of the practice told me: “You could write a book on the corruption, fraud and illegal activity he and his business partners were involved in. He and his partner screwed many people over throughout the years.” This person told me that all that training—and the patina of being a “surgeon”—can go to a clinician’s head. They said, “One thing you would learn if you were in the medical field is that Orthos have God Complex. They feel they are above the law and smarter than anyone else. They are an arrogant bunch. Remember, for certain people, If you cross your T’s and dot your I’s you’ve done nothing wrong. Even if it’s all wrong.”
In other words, Grant was careful.
Justine Harman: Even though Amber was Grant’s “right arm” at the NewportCare Medical Group, she took Dr. Burgess’ side after the lawsuit was filed.
Amber Bodnar: I had plans to move to Arizona and then at that point in time Damien Burgess had left the practice, and I’m not really sure what the reasons were for that at that point in time, but since he was the one who brought me in and since I had gone to high school with him and had more of a personal relationship with him. It just didn’t sit right with me, and then I left and followed him with his new practice in Newport Beach.
I will say, looking back at it now, that I feel like that was a mistake. I should have stayed.
Justine Harman: There’s a comment, I don’t know if you saw it, on one of your Instagram pictures, which is how I piece this together, that Dr. Robicheaux is corrupt, or has done illegal things. Is that something you witnessed or believe in?
Amber Bodnar: I know from when I started they would bring on practitioners and then they would just all of a sudden no longer be part of our practice from one day to the next, which I wasn’t necessarily aware of what was actually going on behind the scenes with the money and all of that. I did stay in contact with providers who did go and I did start to see a pattern of people that would come and go and I obviously heard it was always money issues.
Justine Harman: Like his dad, Grant Robicheaux always has a “number of enterprises at all times.” Aside from the LLC and the day-to-day at NewportCare, he had another hustle: serving as an expert witness on personal injury lawsuits. Most people would do anything to avoid being deposed, especially if they were actively padding bills, but Grant Robicheaux was comfortable swearing under oath and giving testimony.
He was often hired by personal injury lawyers to estimate the fee for a medical treatment or, in some cases, to perform the treatment on lien. As in, he would perform surgeries with the understanding that he’d only get paid once a case was settled. Some physicians get a large amount of their business this way. And defense attorneys have a name for those who do. “He is what we know as a ‘whore,'” a lawyer with direct knowledge of Grant’s role as an expert witness told me. “He’s hired by the plaintiff side, always, and he does evaluations and surgeries and then overcharges—just runs up the bill. The plaintiffs hire him because the more the charges are, the more they’re going to get for their case. Dr. R is a piece of work, and everybody knows him. Once a plaintiff attorney knows the stuff that some guy will do—the stuff he did—they’re gonna use him.”
I was able to obtain a copy of a deposition in which Grant was interviewed as an expert witness. Back in January of 2012, a motorcycle mechanic named Jody Miller was rear-ended by an employee at a skylight construction company called Brighter Concepts, Inc. Five years after the accident, Grant performed something called a “reverse total arthroplasty” on Jody’s shoulder, basically replacing the damaged parts with implants. He quoted his own services at $51,000 and was willing to testify that $180,000 in medical fees were owed to Mr. Miller.
On September 6, 2018, a lawyer named Marc Garber deposed Grant on behalf of the skylight company. The following is pulled directly from an official court transcript of that conversation. It has been lightly edited for clarity only.
Marc Garber: So, Dr. Robicheaux, this bill includes from the surgery to—this is everything you’ve done from the time that you’ve had him as your patient? Does this go all the way through June?
Grant Robicheaux: Yes, I believe so.
Marc Garber: OK, so these numbers, the unit prices, where do these come from?
Grant Robicheaux: Local standard of care, standard of billing in our environment.
Marc Garber: Who prepares this, your office staff?
Grant Robicheaux: The bills, yes.
Marc Garber: Okay. So then this is a bill that goes to Jody Miller for $50,000, almost $51,000
Grant Robicheaux: Correct.
Marc Garber: And then how does he pay this?
Grant Robicheaux: A check or credit card, however he likes.
Marc Garber: Has he paid it?
Grant Robicheaux: I don’t think so. I’m not aware, though.
MARC GARBER: Did you do the procedure on a lien?
Grant Robicheaux: Yes, sir, I believe so.
Marc Garber: Okay. So what are the arrangements as far as him reimbursing you or paying this?
Grant Robicheaux: He owes $51,000 to our practice.
Marc Garber: So what happens if he doesn’t recover any money in the case?
Grant Robicheaux: We’re going to put a lien on his future wages, or I believe we can levy against a house or other assets for the money owed.
Marc Garber: Does he know this?
Grant Robicheaux: [Laughs] I hope so. He signed the paper.
Justine Harman: Garber begins to get frustrated with Grant’s attitude. Once again, the lawyer demands clarification.
Marc Garber: Let me try this again. What specific research did you do to ascertain whether $180,000 or any of these bills are reasonable or necessary? What exactly did you do?
Grant Robicheaux: You just look at postoperative therapy what it typically costs and what you typically see are the bills, and this is in that range, if·anything a little lower.
Marc Garber: When would you typically see the bills of another chiropractor or another MRI facility, other than your own?
Grant Robicheaux: I’ve done this 25 times now, so 25 times.
Marc Garber: You’ve done what 25 times?
Grant Robicheaux: Sat at this table and did a deposition. Just like we did today. People ask me the question, and I look at all the bills, and they’re consistently similar.
Marc Garber: But when you say “consistently similar,” that’s like a conclusion. What is it that you’re consistently comparing them to?
Grant Robicheaux: Last week and the week before and the month before that and the years before that and the last five years of my career.
Marc Garber: But whose bills are you comparing them to?
Grant Robicheaux: A lot of people in this local community. We don’t have the same chiropractors every time, and we don’t have the same PTs every time, but we have very similar bills every time.
Marc Garber: Can you identify anybody you’ve compared them to?
Grant Robicheaux: I don’t know them by name. I look at a bill, and this seems reasonable. If it didn’t seem reasonable, it would stick off the page and I’d say, ‘Oh, that’s weird.’
Marc Garber: What are you looking for in order to make a determination if it’s reasonable? Is it like a per-day charge? I mean, that’s what I’m trying to figure out. What is it that you’re looking for when you just say, ‘Okay. That looks reasonable?’ What are you doing to determine that?
Grant Robicheaux: I’m feeling uncomfortable now. I feel like you’re getting argumentative, and I’m going to shut this down if you keep going that way.
Marc Garber [clearly confounded]: I just simply want to know when you look at a bill, and if you see a bill from a chiropractor and it’s $150 per procedure, what is it that you’re comparing it to, and how do you make a determination as to—
Grant Robicheaux: I just want to put on the record that I’m extremely uncomfortable right now by this attorney. I’ve never had this happen, and I’m about to walk out. I think the judge is going to understand that. I have goose bumps, and I just feel disrespected.
Justine Harman: Grant Robicheaux’s hackles may have been up for good reason. That very same day—perhaps while Grant was being interviewed—the Orange County District Attorney’s office was greenlighting the Newport Beach Police Department’s warrant to arrest the orthopedic surgeon.
Next time, on O.C Swingers—
Vikki Vargas: It was difficult to get a true sense of who they were before this happened.
Justine Harman: Isn’t that weird?
Vikki Vargas: Perhaps, but some people are pretty smart and don’t want to be out on social media and other public places.
Video clip: She has been nothing but a wonderful sister, wife, niece daughter to our whole entire family.
Video clip: She’s a loving and kind person. She’s a Christian. She loves God.
Video clip: “Give it up for our hometown girl. That was Cerissa, everybody.”