Dr. Christopher Walker, UroGyn Specialists

Mesh Medical Device News Desk, June 3, 2019 ~ Dr. Christopher Walker has been arrested and charged with luring women into pelvic mesh removal surgeries that may not have been necessary after contracting with a middleman.

His defenders say this is ridiculous.

Dr. Walker is one of the few urogynecologists who recognizes mesh injuries and has been an expert testifying on behalf of the mesh-injured community.

American Medical Systems has had him in their cross hairs for years.

The U.S. Attorneys office for the Eastern District of New York convened a grand jury and presented information from three anonymous women – Jane Doe #1, Jane Doe #2, and Jane Doe #3.

The indictments followed coverage in the New York Times which focused on profiteers involved with pelvic mesh litigation, while failing to include coverage of Big Pharma that created this mesh mess. 

He is the first doctor ever to be indicted in connection with the massive transvaginal mesh litigation.

Monday, June 17, will be the first court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory Kelly of the Middle District of Florida at the federal courthouse in Orlando for Dr. Christopher Walker, an Orlando urogynecologist who was charged Friday, May 24, with six counts of allegedly defrauding women for financial gain by performing transvaginal mesh removal surgeries.

His attorney Fritz Schiller tell MND “We plan on vigorously defending Dr. Walker and we maintain his innocence. We will zealously advocate on his behalf.”

Also charged was Dallas-based Wesley Blake Barber, the owner of Surgical Assistance Inc. and Medical Funding Consultants LLC, which connected doctors, patients and lenders, generally hedge funds expecting profit.

Both men were charged together with a nationwide scene to defraud women by committing wire fraud and violating the Travel Act. Here is the indictment.

(*Editor Note- Mesh News Desk ran an advertisement for Dr. Walker’s services from June 2015 to February 2016.)

 

The Allegations

Richard P. Donoghue, AG Eastern Division NY

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York brought the indictment on behalf of three women – Jane Doe #1, #2, and #3 – all from New York, who allege they were pressured to undergo mesh removal procedures that financially benefited the middleman and the doctor.

The indictment does not say whether the women wanted or needed the surgery.  Instead it indicates she could be easily lured into an often brutal surgery with hopes of making more money in a mesh settlement.  The tiers of injury, therefore settlement dollars, depend on the number of mesh removal surgeries one has undergone.

Prosecutors load the indictment with language to that effect, such as,,,, “entice the Victims to undergo a removal surgery that would lead to a higher settlement payment from the TVM manufacturers…” and “A fraudulent scheme in order to profit…” and “falsely and fraudulently…”

The indictment alleges the duo downplayed the risks of surgery and encouraged the women to undergo removal surgery often opting not to use their own medical insurance to cover the cost but using instead a “Funding Company-1” which operates out of Brooklyn, or Funding Company -2 which operates out of Boca Raton, Fl.

Law Cash (Brooklyn) and Banyan Finance (Boca Raton, Fl) are not named in the indictment. Nor are the attorneys who represented the women in mesh litigation.

They used the bodies of women as a conduit for their greedy behavior, and that is simply not allowed. Medical professionals play a vital role in our society, and they’re required to adhere to a strict set of standards. As evidenced today, those who don’t will be held accountable,” ~ U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue

The other way to fund a surgery other than a high interest loan is by having a middleman purchase the medical debt for the surgery. The surgeon receives a reduced amount (similar to the Medicare model) while the middleman collects the non-discounted rate for surgery from her eventual settlement.

The profit lies in the difference between those two charges.

It is not unusual, improper, or illegal for a surgeon to agree to be compensated by a lender who has purchased a reduced medical debt.

In this arrangement the surgeon prefers being paid right away instead of waiting for years and makes less per surgery. The benefit for the patient is that she doesn’t have to wait years until an eventual settlement to have some relief offered by a mesh removal.

Barber is charged as the middleman who allegedly coordinated the surgeries and had them financed for profit.

The indictment alleges Dr. Walker paid kickbacks to Barber to receive the surgical referrals. Dr. Walker allegedly performed a removal surgery on Jane Doe #1 and Jane Doe #3.

The indictment points to evidence – one check dated October 21, 2014 was written for $16,000 issued from MedSurg (Dr. Walkers’ company) to Surgical Assistance (Barber’s company). The implications is it’s a kickback.

There is no indication of whether any other Florida doctor will be indicted for Jane Doe #2.

In a profile with Mesh News Desk in June 2015, Dr. Walker reported he was doing about 30 to 40 mesh revisions a month while other gynecological procedures made up the bulk of his practice. One check for $16,000 would appear to pale in comparison, especially if would mean a forfeiture of one’s medical license.

After this indictment it remains to be seen whether he can continue with his high volume mesh removals.

If convicted, each man could face up to 90 years in prison.

 

Experienced Mesh Removal Specialist  

Mesh Pain by Jade R.

Mesh victim, Karen Paxton went to Dr. Walker from the Florida Keys. She says she was out of her mind with pain from a Prolift pelvic mesh.

“I trust him with my life,” she tells Mesh News Desk.  “He is compassionate and caring. He put me in ICU because there was a MRSA outbreak in the hospital and I had a lot of risk factors.  I think he’s an angel.”

She adds, “Nobody would get mesh surgery for a buck, it’s a brutal surgery.”

Dr. Walker is one of a couple dozen doctors around the country who are considered to be high-volume mesh removal experts.  Since polypropylene mesh is intended to be a permanent implant, patient seek out the most experienced removal experts, to have the highest likelihood of success.

He is known to cry with patients and to turn away those who say they have mesh but do not.

“I’m shocked” says Rick Tadrick, formerly with MedFin, a company that had contracted with a selected group of mesh removal doctors around the country.

Under the MedFin model, a surgeon is paid in advance for a reduced sum, not unlike the negotiation done by Medicare, and MedFin is reimbursed later from her settlement, presuming she had one. The woman suffering complications is able to access a much needed surgery to attempt to relieve mesh complications sooner rather than waiting years for her eventual settlement.

Dr. Walker was one of 25 doctors, and in a group of select dozen or so highly recommended doctors with the expertise to do a full mesh removal. “We never had anything approaching strange with Dr. Walker,” he said, “It was a straight contract to render services, nothing more, nothing less.”

Tadrick adds, “You can indict a cookie.”

 

New York Times Generated Investigation?

Jerri Plummer is suing her surgeon and lawyer, NYT

The New York Times, in a report from April 2018, paints a picture of unsophisticated women called by a stranger who allegedly tells them they are in danger from their mesh and need it removed immediately.

The story fails to mention whether the patient was having complications. Instead she is “lured” in “often “unneeded surgery,” reports the Times in creating a shady scenario that echoes defense attorneys’ involved transvaginal mesh litigation.

In the Times report announcing the indictment in April, it points to last year’s story as prompted the federal investigation. Headlined How Profiteers Lured Women Into Often-Unneeded Surgery, it suggests women are injured by their removal surgeries rather than the initial placement of transvaginal mesh, which most women claim is when their complications began.

“The profits are immense. So are the costs to women. Some suffer physical problems from the (removal) surgery. Others say they have become depressed or unable to work. Still others have to get mesh reinserted.”

In fact, hundreds of thousands of women globally claim that their polypropylene mesh devices ruined their life leaving them in chronic pain and infection.

It was implanted, often with no informed consent, to shore up the urethra to treat incontinence or sagging pelvic organs that fall after a hysterectomy or through childbirth.

Many mesh implanted women have lost their jobs, their husbands and their homes. Many desperately seek out surgeries from the most experienced high-volume removal doctors who have experience doing a full removal of the offending mesh, which often alleviates some of the mesh-related complications.

In response to the Times follow-up story on the indictment from April 15, one comment points to the paper’s glaring omissions:

I pray it does not mislead the general public into believing the mesh debacle is a made up conspiracy aimed at make certain parties rich. Mesh injury is real. Another worrisome aspect of this story is the mesh injured community has been trying for years, without success, to get our stories heard as a warning to other women to not fall into the trap of mesh implants that has led many women to crippling pain, loss of sex life, partner abandonment, disability, inability to work, autoimmune diseases, nerve damage, scar tissue, and on and on. We are outraged the only article that has come into print by the US media is about the alleged fraud. This article sets to discredit the horrific situations mesh has left too many women in.”


One note- the Times story from 2018 had 225 comments. The April story did not offer an option to comment.


History with AMS

Barbara Binis, Reed Smith for AMS

Mesh News Desk has written about American Medical Systems (AMS) and its allegations of a fraudulent “scheme” to stack the deck against the company in transvaginal mesh litigation.

AMS was purchased by Endo Health in 2011 for $2.9 billion and was the earliest to offer settlements to its more than 21,000 mesh-implanted women.

Ironically, for a company facing the financial weight of litigation, AMS has been paying a legion of high priced corporate lawyers to fight its perceived enemies. Heading the legal team is Barbara Binis of Reed Smith of Philadelphia.

She has been working for years to uncover various allegedly illicit schemes to inflate the damage claims of women implanted with AMS transvaginal mesh.

She turned her attention to Dr. Walker and his staff, deposing him in May 2016 about why he did surgeries on two out-of-state patients who obtained legal funding to undergo their removal surgeries.

Ms. Greenier and Ms. Elliott were allegedly told not to use insurance and that a concierge, Surgical Assistants, would take care of their travel needs to Orlando.

Both women had AMS mesh implanted. Neither one is from New York.

From the deposition:

Patient Greenier “had never complained to any doctor about pelvic pain for nine years,” Binis stated in Walker’s deposition, so how did you know she needed removal?

Walker: Because her pain was ten out of ten, he answered, and she demonstrated evidence of a chronic inflammatory process.

Binis: “Were you aware that some of these funding contracts come with a 39% annual interest rate compounded monthly?”

Walker: “I don’t know those issues, mam.”

Binis asks why were $500 surgeries not the norm while some were $3,500?  No one can expect a surgeon to collect $500 on a very complication time consuming surgical procedures, said Dr. Walker.

Binis is very argumentative.

Binis: “What kind of service were you giving that was worth seven times more than what you would have done had the patient come to you in a regular practice?”

Walker: “I’m certainly not aware of any surgeon who can accept $500, that’s less than what I pay my plumber,” said Dr. Walker in response.

Lawyers for Walker argued that subpoenas for his office personnel were unduly burdensome and harassing.

In 2016, Magistrate Judge Cheryl Eifert denied the further deposition and allowed financial sanctions to be filed against AMS for overreached a protective order. See MND story here and Doc #31 here.    The sanctions covered the cost of Dr. Walker’s attorney who filed the protective order.

Binis then filed notices to depose seven women in Florida as well as Women’s Health Center of South Florida and Beth Israel Surgical Center of Broward Outpatient Center.

The degree to which Binis continues to work with investigators is yet to be determined as is the question of whether the three Jane Does are recipients of AMS mesh.

Ironically, her law firm, Reed Smith, is facing accusations of questionable practices of its own, as reported by ReedSmithWatch.com,  which says partners, including Binis, bill around $700 an hour. ##

 

LEARN MORE:

Grand Jury Indictment, May 23, 2019, Eastern District of New York

New York Times, April 14, 2018, How Profiteers Lure Women Into Often-Unneeded Surgery

MND Op-Ed, September 26, 2018, NYT Transvaginal Mesh Coverage Misses the Big Picture

MND, October 10, 2013, AMS Alleges Scheme to Profit from Transvaginal Mesh Injuries

MND, June 8, 2015, Urogynecologist Dr. Walker Talks Mesh Removals and Worst Offenders

MND, November 28, 2016, Court Imposes Sanctions on AMS for its Pursuit of Dr. Walker

New York Times, May 25, 2019, Two Men Charged in Pelvic Mesh Removal Scheme