After a prominent Philadelphia neurologist was charged with groping several patients at his clinic, Pennsylvania reporter Michael Rubinkam began digging into the neurologist's past to see if he had been accused of wrongdoing elsewhere. He was helped by a tip from AP reporter Mark Scolforo, who happened to run into a lawyer representing some of the alleged Philadelphia victims. The lawyer mentioned that Dr. Ricardo Cruciani had worked at facilities in New York and New Jersey as well.

Rubinkam was off and running.

Reviewing documents in three states, and checking with medical centers and law enforcement, he was able to determine that at least 17 women in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey have stepped forward to accuse Cruciani of sexual misconduct that goes back at least a dozen years – either reporting him to police or retaining an attorney to pursue civil claims.

A call to a police department in a New Jersey community where the doctor had worked got a surprise confirmation from the chief that, yes, Cruciani had been investigated.

At Michael’s request, New York City reporter Colleen Long also checked with her police sources and obtained a confidential report from 2013 in which a woman said Cruciani had abused her for three years at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan.

The interviews lasted several hours. A woman willing to be named provided a powerful account of how Cruciani allegedly preyed on vulnerable patients.

The lawyer who was the initial contact in the reporting agreed to ask his clients if they would talk to the AP, and three did – including a woman who was willing to be named, providing a powerful account of how he allegedly preyed on vulnerable patients. The interviews lasted several hours, and the women told their stories in painful detail – how they’d suffered from rare disorders that caused terrible pain, and felt they had no choice but to continue seeing the doctor because he was one of the few who could treat them.

A postscript: Two days after Michael’s story ran, Cruciani pleaded guilty to groping seven patients in Philadelphia in a deal that will require him to forfeit his medical license and register as a sex offender.

For reporting exclusively that Cruciani has left behind a trail of sex abuse claims in at least three states, and obtaining powerful accounts of how he was able to prey on vulnerable patients, Rubinkam wins this week’s $300 Best of the States award.