A Port St. Lucie dermatologist, who is accused of misdiagnosing patients with skin cancer and treating them for it, appeared in federal court on Wednesday.
Dr. Gary Marder pleaded guilty to felony charges of obstruction of justice and healthcare fraud.
He could face up to 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Marder admitted he billed insurance companies for the work of a radiation specialist who never actually worked on those cases.
He also admitted that he ordered his staff to falsify about two dozen patient files after the government issued a subpoena for them.
As part of his plea agreement, he has to give up his medical license.
For many of his former patients, like Gloria Strumalo, that’s a big victory. “You just take their word,” Strumalo said in February. “You trust your doctors.”
That’s what Strumalo did when she went to Marder for a checkup. He diagnosed her with skin cancer and recommended radiation therapy.
“I went for 20 days of two hours,” Strumalo said.
The bills to the insurance company were stacking up. Then Strumalo got a second opinion from Dr. Ted Schiff and it turned out she never had cancer.
All the treatments and the pain she went through were for nothing.
“It’s devastating,” Strumalo said.
Schiff became a whistleblower in the case after several of Dr. Marder’s patients came to him.
“Sometimes we recognize patients just by the sheer number of biopsies done," Schiff said in February.
In February, Marder maintained his innocence in a news conference.
“I have never, will ever do anything that will hurt them," Marder said.
The whistleblower case ended with Marder paying $5.2 million to the federal government for allegedly overbilling Medicare.
But the federal government also had been building a criminal case against Marder.
After Marder pleaded guilty to those two counts on Wednesday, neither he nor his attorney had a comment as they left the federal courthouse.
Marder, who lives in a $27 million mansion, will remain free on a $1 million bond until sentencing in February.