- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Prosecutors are calling for the maximum prison sentence allowed under federal guidelines for a prominent D.C. eye surgeon who admitted bilking Medicare and other health plans of more than $1 million.

Douglas F. Greer, 67, who faces sentencing this week, is portrayed in recent memos filed by prosecutors as performing unnecessary procedures on patients to “enrich himself and his family.”

Federal prosecutors, seeking a sentence of more than four years, wrote that Greer is “an embarrassment to the medical profession” and that he performed 30 laser procedures on one patient who did not have glaucoma.

“A lengthy term of incarceration is necessary and appropriate to punish him and deter other physicians from putting the love of money before their patients and society as a whole,” prosecutors argued.

Federal sentencing guidelines call for 41 to 51 months in prison for Greer, who pleaded guilty to fraud in May and has surrendered his license to practice medicine.

Prosecutors say he should receive the maximum 51 months. But defense attorneys say the case “cries out for leniency,” citing more than 100 letters from friends, family, colleagues and former patients.

Among the hundreds of pages of documents Greer’s attorneys submitted on his behalf to U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon is a letter from a patient who said Greer saved his life and eyesight after a car accident.

Another letter writer said Greer’s work saved his career. Others said that he advised against expensive surgical procedures because he did not want to do so unless “completely necessary.”

“Notwithstanding the morass of insurance requirements, Dr. Greer admittedly failed before 2002 in his billing responsibilities and has accepted responsibility for them by retiring his licenses, pleading guilty and agreeing to pay the government and other insurers,” a recent defense memo states.

Greer is in the process of liquidating his assets, including his pension and life savings, to pay his restitution.

Prosecutors said Greer also paid his housekeeper from a corporate account and claimed charitable expenses in connection with family vacations to the Cayman Islands.

During Greer’s plea hearing in May, Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan B. Menzer said that of 136 cataract procedures Greer performed from 1999 to 2002, he claimed that in 108 of them he needed to perform a “scleral graft” to mend a burn on the white part of the eye.

However, Miss Menzer said, such grafts are typically required only once out of every 1,000 cataract procedures.

“Billing for medically unnecessary services is a crime,” she said.