Mom Says Phony Doc Rolled Her for $260,000

     SANTA ROSA, Calif. (CN) – An unlicensed “therapist” who lied about her credentials borrowed more than $260,000 from two patients and won’t pay it back, a mother and daughter claim in court.
     Kristi Johnson and her daughter Emily sued Dr. Kristin Neeley aka Dr. Kristin Merrill-Saks, and her husband, Dr. Scott Neeley, in Sonoma County Court.
     Both women say they paid “exorbitant” fees to Neeley/Merrill-Saks for years, and that she “borrowed” a total of more than $280,000 from them and repaid just a little over $20,000.
     According to the complaint, in 2003, “Defendant Dr. Merrill-Saks persuaded plaintiff Kristi Johnson to pay for what she was led to believe would be psychological counseling by said defendant. Defendant Dr. Merrill-Saks represented herself to be a psychologist and with [a] doctorate from Stanford University. Defendant Dr. Merrill-Saks provided information to plaintiffs which was designed to convince plaintiffs that defendant Dr. Merrill-Saks was a licensed therapist.”
     Emily Johnson was also a patient of Dr. Merrill-Saks, from the time she was 13, according to the complaint.
     From 2004 to 2009, Kristi Johnson says, she “paid defendant Dr. Merrill-Saks a total amount of approximately $19,000, most of which was paid in October and November, 2009.”
     The complaint continues: “At some point in the year 2010 and utilizing the confidential and sensitive information acquired in said sessions, Dr. Merrill-Saks began persuading each of the plaintiffs to loan her a substantial amount of money. The use of this confidential and sensitive information was designed to further manipulate the plaintiffs, who had placed their trust in defendant Dr. Merrill-Saks, to loan this money to her. As a result, defendant Dr. Merrill-Saks persuaded plaintiff Kristi Johnson to loan her $230,350 over a period of time from approximately August, 2010 through March, 2013.
     “In March, 2013, at the request of defendant Dr. Merrill-Saks, plaintiff Emily Johnson, who is now a full time student at UC Santa Cruz and who had been treated by defendant Dr. Merrill-Saks since she was approximately 13 years old, loaned defendant Dr. Merrill-Saks $50,000 after plaintiffs disclosed to defendant Dr. Merrill-Saks, during confidential psychological counseling sessions, that an education fund had been set up for the benefit of plaintiff Emily Johnson’s college education.”
     The Johnsons claim Merrill-Saks promised to repay the loans, but has presently only paid back just over $20,000.
     In April this year, the mom and daughter claim, they discovered “that defendant Dr. Merrill-Saks falsely made representations indicating that she was a licensed therapist and that, in fact, she was not licensed to provide such psychological counseling.”
     They seek punitive damages for fraud and breach of contract, and they want their $260,000 back, with interest, and/or a lien against Merrill-Saks’s home.
     They are represented by Marc Mazer of Benjamin, Weill and Mazer.

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