By Melissa Chan
February 18, 2016

The family of the Florida teenager who opened up his own medical center while allegedly posing as a licensed doctor thought the 18-year-old may have been up to no good but brushed off their doubts.

“The thing is that it was a slight concern with his age and the way that he was moving around,” said William McKenzie, whose grandson, Malachi Love-Robinson, was arrested Tuesday for practicing medicine without a license. “I was just praying that he was doing what was right.”

McKenzie, who has been raising the teenager with his wife at their West Palm Beach home for the last six years, didn’t question his grandson who has been known to have high aspirations since being diagnosed with lupus as a child, he told TIME on Thursday.

“One day, we looked up and he was in the medical field,” the 60-year-old said. “You have to figure you don’t know exactly what he’s doing, and at 18 to open up a practice, you’re going to have some doubts, like ‘How did he do this?’ Quite naturally, his family may have some doubts, but they’re still going to support him.”

Authorities said Love-Robinson opened the New Birth New Life Medical Center & Urgent Care office in West Palm Beach in January to solicit patients. He was arrested after he allegedly performed a physical exam on an undercover agent and offering medical advice, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. The teenager may face additional grand theft and forgery charges after an 86-year-old victim claimed he duped her out of thousands of dollars.

The patient, Anita Morrison, was suffering from severe stomach pain when she stumbled across Love-Robinson’s website and started seeing him in December 2015, police said. Love-Robinson visited her five times at her West Palm Beach home, diagnosing her with arthritis and selling her natural vitamins during the first examination, according to authorities.

Morrison had to be rushed to the hospital by ambulance during a recent at-home visit and left her purse and keys with Love-Robinson at his suggestion, she told police. Her bank account was soon emptied, and Morrison said three checks were made out to her would-be-doctor and cashed for almost $2,800 without her consent. That’s on top of the $3,500 she said she shelled out for the doctor’s visits.

Love-Robinson, who told reporters at a news conference late Wednesday that he was “not upset” following his release on $21,000 bail, is now struggling to come to terms with the allegations. “My emotions are raging,” he told TIME on Thursday. “It’s just been a horrible past few days. As of right now, I have nothing to say. I just ask that everyone pray for me.”

The Florida Department of Health cited Love-Robinson in October 2015 for “fraudulently representing himself as a doctor,” health officials said. The department issued another cease-and-desist order and alerted police this month after discovering he was still representing himself as a doctor. In another incident last year, he was stopped at a hospital while wandering the halls wearing a lab coat and stethoscope, according to the Associated Press.

Love-Robinson’s grandfather says the family still supports the young man who nearly died as a child while battling Lupus — a chronic disease caused when the immune system attacks its own tissues. “There were a number of times we thought we were going to lose him, he was so sick. God has really protected him and brought him a long way,” McKenzie said. “He goes out and he constantly tries to prove himself that he can and he will succeed,” he added. “He’s too smart for his own good. He’s too, too smart.”

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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