A former psychiatrist was sent to prison for 16 years today for duping seriously ill people out of $400,000 with false promises of organ transplants in the Philippines.
U.S. District Judge David Hurd sentenced Jerome Feldman to 15 years and 8 months in prison and ordered him to repay $2 million to the victims of the phony organ-transplant scheme and an earlier Medicare fraud in Florida.
Feldman Feldman pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud charges for luring five people to the Philippines for life-saving organ transplants. He'd set up a web site where patients sought quick access to transplants because they were desperate for a life-saving organ transplant.
Feldman, 69, whose estranged wife lives in Baldwinsville, apologized in court as he stood in an orange jail uniform and handcuffs.
"I'm sorry I didn't return - didn't make refunds," Feldman said.
His lawyer, federal Public Defender James Greenwald, told the judge that Feldman did help three of the five victims get organ transplants in the Philippines. Greenwald acknowledged that Feldman falsely represented his relationship with the doctors there and overcharged the patients.
"He's not the monster or ogre the government makes him out to be," Greenwald said in court.
Those patients who did get transplants did so only because they made their own arrangements in the Philippines when they arrived and realized Feldman was a fraud using an alias, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carla Freedman said. They had wired thousands of dollars to Feldman's bank account then flew to Manila only to realize he'd made no arrangements for the transplants, Freedman said.
One of the patients who got an organ "is alive today in spite of the defendant," Freedman said. She said the patient went to a surgeon's office on his own and Feldman went with him. Feldman then asked the secretary if the surgeon could take the patient, Freedman said.
The patients had to pay legitimate medical expenses for the transplants on top of the amounts they'd paid to Feldman, she said.
Another patient, Erwin Benke of Edmonton, Canada, flew to the Philippines in 2008 after paying $70,000 to Feldman in a last-ditch effort for a liver transplant. Benke waited six months before he died there without a transplant, Freedman said. His common-law wife, Victoria Langier, was not with him.
"She will never be able to live with the fact that she wasn't with her husband in the last six months of his life," Freedman said.
Feldman's fraud unraveled in July 2008 when Langier called the DeWitt Police Department to report that her husband was dying in the Philippines while waiting for a liver transplant. She told DeWitt police that she'd wired the $70,000 to a DeWitt bank for the surgery.