Miami Beach’s ‘Rock Doc’ plans to plead guilty to Medicare fraud

 
 
Dr. Christopher G. Wayne talks on the phone in his house in Miami Beach in December 2010.
Dr. Christopher G. Wayne talks on the phone in his house in Miami Beach in December 2010.
For The Wall Street Journal / ALEXIA FODERE

jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

The “Rock Doc” of Miami Beach plans to plead guilty to swindling millions from Medicare.

Christopher Gregory Wayne, an osteopathic physician accused of submitting bogus bills to the taxpayer-funded program, told a federal judge Tuesday that he was “agreeable” to doing a plea deal.

But, without his defense lawyer present, Wayne blurted out that he wanted to talk with the prosecutor in his case “because I know that I’m guilty but there are some extenuating circumstances.”

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola advised Wayne “to be careful what you say,” then scheduled his change of plea hearing for Feb. 4.

Wayne has been held without bond at a Miami federal detention center since his arrest on healthcare fraud charges in late September. He pleaded not guilty to charges of submitting false claims for physical therapy treatments, such as massages and electrical stimulation, at his former Miami clinic.

At a pre-trial hearing Tuesday, Wayne questioned the prosecution’s assertion that he tried to steal as much as $5 million from the Medicare program. The government’s loss amount would greatly influence his prison sentence, which could range between six and eight years.

“This matter will likely be resolved in a plea,” the doctor’s defense attorney, Michael Grieco, said Wednesday. “The specifics have not been inked yet.”

At his bail hearing in October, federal prosecutor Eric Morales argued that Wayne filed almost $5 million in false claims for various physical therapy treatments in 2007-09 and was paid $1.7 million by Medicare.

The prosecutor said Wayne, whose patients dubbed him the “Rock Doc” because of his punk-style hairdo, submitted bills for 500 physical therapy sessions a day on average in 2008 — a mathematical impossibility.

Some patients told the federal grand jury that his therapy services were a “joke,” the prosecutor said, adding that the treatments were sometimes provided by Wayne's unlicensed “office girls.”

An indictment shows Wayne was charged with 15 counts of Medicare fraud by submitting “false claims” for treating a handful of patients. Each claim was relatively small: 15-minute massages ($25), electrical stimulation ($20) and ultrasounds ($15).

But the indictment also accuses Wayne of systematic abuse by “falsely and fraudulently representing that these treatments and services were medically necessary and had been provided to Medicare beneficiaries” between December 2007 and August 2009.

Wayne, who has sported punkish hair along with chains, bangles and leather bracelets in the past, has been in the public eye before as a focus of a Wall Street Journal profile in December 2010.

According to the profile, he had used his Pine Tree Island home in Miami Beach as a production studio for Playboy photo spreads and had posed with celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.

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