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VOL. 125 | NO. 34 | Friday, February 19, 2010

Yoser Sentenced To 42 Months

By Tom Wilemon

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Dr. Seth Yoser fainted Thursday, immediately after U.S. District Judge S. Thomas Anderson sentenced him to 42 months for mail fraud, wire fraud and selling drugs without a license.

Yoser, an ophthalmologist who specialized in the treatment of wet macular degeneration, pleaded guilty last summer to 35 counts of federal fraud charges for stealing an expensive medicine from his practice, double-billing Medicare for the medicine and then selling it back to ophthalmology practices, including the clinic where he was a partner, the Eye Specialty Group in East Memphis. (See “Good Deed Punished” in the Feb. 10 issue of The Daily News, www.memphisdailynews.com).

The judge cleared the courtroom and called in a nurse after the doctor fainted at noon. Yoser’s condition was not known by press time Thursday.

Yoser’s lawyer, Daniel Warlick, had asked the judge for a sentence of six months to a year. Federal sentencing guidelines for the crimes recommended punishment between 51 months and 64 months.

The judge also ordered Yoser to pay restitution of $400,000 to the Eye Specialty Group to help the practice over the cost of reimbursing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Even though Yoser’s partners turned him into authorities, the practice is still being held liable for a portion of the government’s losses.

Yoser had already agreed to repay the federal agency $1.6 million as part of a civil settlement with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Yoser’s character witnesses included Dr. David Meyer, a Memphis ophthalmologist with whom Yoser has been practicing since his indictment; Nicole Germain, an assistant Shelby County district attorney; and his wife, Marisa Yoser.

“In my opinion, he’s a very loving husband and he’s a very loving father,” said Germain, who described herself as a family friend. “I always thought he put his family first.”

Seth Yoser, who cooperated with authorities after being turned in, took the stand and said his family was the biggest victim.

“I’m completely asking for the judge’s mercy and society’s mercy,” he said.

Yoser told the judge he was stressed with financial hardships, including supporting a family of nine children for two years. But Yoser and his wife have two children.

“On top of that, there was some greed involved too,” the doctor said.

U.S. Attorney Timothy DiScenza noted the court has to make sentencing decisions every day that cause people to suffer.

“The court is going to have to do that in this case,” DiScenza said.

Anderson did trim some time off of Yoser’s sentence for agreeing to wear a wire as part of a separate drug fraud investigation in New Jersey. No other details about that investigation were explained in court.

Before he delivered the sentence, Anderson noted that Yoser had received about 95 percent of the profit from the fraud scheme, which resulted in an estimated loss of $3.7 million to the government.

“Dr. Yoser, I don’t know quite what to say to you,” the judge said, noting that most of the people who appeared before him for sentencing did not have an advanced education or a stable childhood and background.

He said Yoser’s remorse appeared to be genuine but said the doctor’s words were not original. Most of the people who appear in court do not realize the harm they’ve caused until they are caught, the judge said.

Yoser has surrendered his license to practice in Arkansas and Mississippi, but he is still licensed in Tennessee. Yoser maintains he did nothing to put patients in harm’s way, but his former partners disagree.

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