- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2007

A prominent D.C. doctor pleaded guilty to fraud yesterday after investigators said they uncovered a $1 million scam to bill Medicare and private insurers for unnecessary procedures.

The ophthalmologist, Douglas F. Greer, 67, also was accused of hiding income from the IRS, paying his housekeeper out of a corporate account and claiming charitable expenses in connection with family trips to the Cayman Islands, prosecutors said.

Susan B. Menzer, an assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting Greer, said the government obtained evidence to prove that he routinely billed Medicare and insurance companies for expensive procedures that were “medically unnecessary.” Medicare is the government’s health program for senior citizens.

In one example, Miss Menzer said that of 136 cataract procedures Greer performed from 1999 to 2002, he submitted insurance claims purporting 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 only required once out of every 1,000 cataract procedures.

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

Greer, who two weeks ago gave up his practice, told a judge in federal court in the District that he was guilty. However, he took exception after Miss Menzer outlined the government’s case against him.

“There was some drama,” he told U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon.

Greer faces 10 years on the health care fraud count and three years for the willful failure to file a tax return. He is not likely to receive the maximum on either count, under federal sentencing guidelines.

Greer, who remains free on bond and lives in the District, twice consulted with his attorney in court before he formally submitted his guilty plea to Judge Leon.

Defense attorney John Nassikas III objected to three paragraphs in the five pages of charges filed against his client, calling one sentence describing a purported cover-up of phony billing as “inflammatory, incorrect information.”

Mr. Nassikas also said neither he nor his client have been able to independently confirm how much money the case involved. Prosecutors said the fraud involved $1,011,467 in “false and fraudulent” claims to Medicare and other insurers.

He also said he will outline “the total truthful context” of the case as it moves ahead to the sentencing phase.

Miss Menzer said that if the case went to trial, prosecutors were prepared to prove that Greer altered medical records to cover up fraudulent billing practices.

She also said Greer reduced his tax liability by booking personal expenses, such as groceries and meals at local restaurants, as general office expenses. In addition, prosecutors said Greer claimed that he performed charitable work for a nonprofit group he founded called International Vision during family vacations to the Cayman Islands.

Though he provided care to indigent patients during the trips, Greer “knew that the vast majority of expenses incurred during these vacations were for his family’s benefit,” charging documents stated.

The case marks the latest of several health care fraud prosecutions against medical professionals in the District.

Larry Bruni, an AIDS doctor in the District, last month was sentenced to five months in prison for a Medicare scam that netted him more than $150,000.

Ricardo Henry, chief executive of a District-based mental-health clinic, is awaiting sentencing on charges that he bilked Medicaid to help pay off monthly loan payments for two Porsche sports cars.

And Akube Ndoromo, chief executive of District-based Voice of Social Concern, a Medicaid transportation company, is in jail awaiting sentencing after a jury convicted him on charges of bilking the government out of $1.8 million.

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