Federal Jury Returns Guilty Verdicts Against Ohio Doc in Health Care Scam

January 16, 2006

Gregory White, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, reported that on Jan. 12, 2006 a federal jury returned guilty verdicts against Jorge A. Martinez, M.D., 54, of Akron, Ohio, after a five-week trial. Martinez was convicted of 57 counts of drug distribution, mail fraud, wire fraud and health care fraud, including two counts of health care fraud resulting in death.

Martinez reportedly schemed to defraud the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies of $60 million, and received more than $12 million from the scheme. Martinez, a solo practitioner, ran pain management clinics in Boardman, Parma, Lorain and Akron, Ohio. He reportedly gave his patients – often more than 100 in a day – the same regimen of injections and Schedule II and II narcotic drugs.

By demanding that patients see him weekly, Martinez rendered them physically dependent, and in some cases addicted, to the drugs he prescribed. He then billed their insurance companies thousands of dollars for visits that lasted a few minutes. The visits consisted of an employee asking the patient which drugs he or she wanted, followed by Martinez’s insistence on the injections. The injections themselves were crude versions of simple shots known as trigger point injections, but Martinez billed patients’ insurance companies for multiple, complex epidural and nerve block procedures more commonly done in a hospital out-patient setting. Martinez also insisted that patients “donate” cash to his insurance malpractice fund.

The jury found that as a result of the illegal scheme, Martinez reportedly caused the deaths of Blair Scott Knight, 35, of Ravenna, Ohio, and John “Jack” Lancaster, 42, of Parma, Ohio.

Both men died in 2001 after more than a year under Martinez’s care. Both had suffered work-related back injuries for which they had seen several doctors. Martinez prescribed OxyContin and gave steroid injections to both men beginning with their initial visits. He continued to prescribe increasing amounts of OxyContin and other drugs to them, even after he had reason to know they were abusing drugs.

Knight died from an overdose of OxyContin on Jan. 8, 2001, the last day he had seen Martinez and received from him an OxyContin prescription. Lancaster last saw Martinez on Sept. 5, 2001, after a 20-day painful withdrawal from drugs. Martinez, reportedly knowing

Lancaster had abused heroin, prescribed Kadian, a Schedule II drug that has the same effect in the brain as heroin, according to the Government’s expert witnesses. Lancaster overdosed on multiple opiates after a visit in which he slept half the day in Martinez’s office, according to a witness. Martinez billed the BWC more than $5,000 for the visit. He was taken to a hospital emergency room 36 hours later, placed on a ventilator and transferred to an intensive care unit, where he stayed until his death a week later.

Sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. on March 22, 2006 before the Honorable Donald Nugent, United States District Judge. The statutory maximum sentence for health care fraud resulting in death is life in prison.

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