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Doctor Charged in Fake-Surgery Fraud

An Orange County ophthalmologist is in jail for his alleged role in a five-year scheme to falsely diagnose seniors with a serious eye disease, pretend to treat them and collect $7 million from Medicare for the treatments, the Florida Times-Union reports (paywall alert).

David Ming Pon, 56, pleaded not guilty. He is accused of scaring patients by telling them they had wet macular degeneration, which requires laser surgery to prevent blindness.  He was jailed in Jacksonville because that is the location of the company that processes and pays Medicare claims from Florida.

He turned himself in to authorities Friday after plea negotiations broke down, according to the Times-Union. A federal judge in Jacksonville, who decided Pon was a flight risk because he has millions of dollars in investments in China and no family in Florida, ordered that he stay in jail.

Authorities say Pon actually used the laser on the eyes of the patients he lied to, but on a low enough level that their vision was not harmed. He had clinics in Leesburg and Orlando, the Times-Union reports.

The state Department of Health license look-up site shows Pon as having a "clear and active" license, although a complaint is pending.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.