Barbara Perez
Barbara Perez ()

A Brevard County oncologist and the two cancer treatment centers he operated have been ordered to pay the U.S. government $89.6 million in a whistleblower lawsuit for defrauding Medicare.

The whistleblower, Joseph McBride, a former employee of Dr. Wasfi Makar of Titusville and American Cancer Treatment Centers, was represented by Barbara Perez, a partner at Aronovitz Law in Miami. The firm specializes in representing whistleblowers.

The qui tam complaint filed in federal court in the Middle District of Florida alleged Makar and ACTC billed Medicare for imaging tests that were never performed or performed improperly. The false claims were submitted from 2009 to 2012, and the lawsuit was filed in 2012.

U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore in Tampa entered the judgment May 14 in the case brought under the federal False Claims Act.

“As a health care professional, Mr. McBride understood the inner workings of his employer, including the equipment and procedures,” Perez said. “He knew that patients were not receiving the care they needed and followed his conscience to bring this fraudulent activity to light.”

American Cancer Treatment Centers is no longer in business and Makar’s corporation has filed for bankruptcy protection, making the judgment likely uncollectable, said his attorney, Chad Alvaro of Mateer & Harbert in Orlando.

Alvaro entered the case for the damages portion of the case after the default judgment was entered. He maintains the judge erred in refusing to set aside a default, which was entered because the physician thought his bankruptcy filing would stay all other legal proceedings against him.

“We don’t think the ruling is supported by the evidence, and we think the court erred in not setting aside the default so the case could be tried on its merits,” he said.

He said he was unsure if Makar would appeal.