Port St. Lucie Doctor Profited Over False Cancer Diagnoses

A Florida dermatologist has reached an agreement to settle a federal investigation into his alleged intentional medical malpractice and resulting profits from a Medicare scheme.

The Palm Beach Post reports that Dr. Gary Marder, who has practices in Port St. Lucie and Okeechobee, has agreed to pay $18 million to reimburse the government for money he received for unnecessary radiation, biopsies, and other treatments that were not necessary.

The investigation into Dr. Marder was launched by a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a Palm Beach County dermatologist named Dr. Ted Schiff in 2013. Schiff had noticed that an increasing number of patients came to him after being diagnosed with skin cancer, and often treated for this cancer, by Marder. In many cases, Dr. Schiff discovered that these patients’ most severe skin problems were freckles, and that many never had skin cancer.

One former patient of Dr. Marder’s, Gloria Strumalo from Port St. Lucie, says he diagnosed her with skin cancer during a check-up and told her to pursue radiation therapy. According to reports by an ABC affiliate in Detroit, Strumalo underwent radiation therapy for two hours a day for 20 days—with each visit costing between $1,600 and $3,500. When she returned to Dr. Marder for a follow-up, he told her more treatment was necessary. Rather than continue with radiation, however, Strumalo opted to undergo surgery to remove the alleged cancer. Her wound got badly infected following this procedure, which is when she turned to Dr. Ted Schiff for a second opinion.

Gloria Strumalo was just one of many patients who sought second opinions from Dr. Schiff after receiving skin cancer diagnoses from Marder over the course of three to five years. Schiff eventually alerted the FBI of this alleged malpractice scam, and the case was turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Federal investigators focused on Marder’s billing of Medicare and Tricare for biopsies and other services, and learned that he had collaborated with Dr. Robert Kendall. Between January 2008 and May 2014, Kendall allegedly tested 35,000 Medicare biopsy specimens for Marder. Rather than billing Medicare for these tests, Kendall had Marder do the billing and received a cut of the profits.

Under the terms of this settlement, Marder may pay $5.2 million in advance of the February 24 due-date, and this will satisfy the $18 million accord. If he fails to pay by the 24th, however, his fine will increase to $41 million. Marder has also agreed to hand over a vacant property he owns on Hutchinson Island, which is valued at $650,000. Though Marder lives in a 12,700-square-foot home worth roughly $28 million, Florida law prohibits the seizure of this property.

Dr. Kendall has agreed to pay $250,000 for his role in this fraud. Both doctors have refused to admit liability for the charges against them, and both have retained their medical licenses and are able to continue practicing in Florida.

Dr. Ted Schiff, the dermatologist who tipped the FBI off to Marder’s misconduct, is eligible for up to 25 percent of any money recovered by the government. According to the federal order announcing this settlement, Schiff should get 22 percent of the money paid to the government, or roughly $1.1 million.

If Dr. Schiff had not alerted federal authorities to the alleged scam conducted by Dr. Marder, it is possible that even more patients would have had to undergo painful, debilitating, and costly treatment for false cancer. In addition to undergoing unnecessary cancer treatments, Dr. Marder’s victims also had to cope with the emotional trauma of a cancer diagnosis, as did their loved ones. When doctors violate their duty to “do no harm” in the interest of increasing their profits, our attorneys believe that they must be held fully accountable—and we will fight tirelessly to ensure that this happens. If you believe that you or your loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice in Florida, please contact us for a free and confidential legal consultation.

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