A leading Spokane kidney doctor being investigated for billing fraud is now accused of threatening to kill another doctor and disrupting the city’s largest hospital.
Dr. Mark Frazier, who helped perform the city’s first kidney transplant in 1981, spent two nights in the Spokane County Jail after being arrested at a Valley Les Schwab as he was getting his tires changed Monday afternoon.
Frazier’s parents mortgaged their Omaha home to raise the $50,000 bond that freed him Wednesday night.
Court papers painted a picture of a man dangerously on the edge, lashing out at other doctors and staff members, carrying weapons to work and targeting joggers with a laser-sighted rifle as they ran past his former High Drive home.
Frazier, 50, referred questions to his lawyer, Charles Rohr, who denied the doctor ever threatened anyone or targeted any jogger with a weapon.
“He has no clue about what’s going on,” Rohr said. “He’s totally blindsided by this whole thing.”
Frazier faces a felony charge of criminal harassment, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He also faces a gross misdemeanor charge of interfering with a health-care provider, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Federal agents began investigating Frazier’s former clinic, Northwest Nephrology Associates, and its four doctors two years ago for alleged overbilling of Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies.
Sources say the alleged overbilling went on for years and totaled at least $1 million. No criminal or civil charges have been filed and the investigation could be finished in a couple of months.
If the allegations are proved, civil penalties could reach more than $15 million.
The state Medical Quality Assurance Commission, which can revoke a doctor’s medical license, also is investigating three complaints against Frazier, one filed in March 1996 and two filed Wednesday. State officials won’t discuss the nature of the complaints.
Sacred Heart Medical Center suspended Frazier’s privileges to treat patients June 4. A hospital spokeswoman said she couldn’t say why, but did say the suspension was not related to the threats or the fraud investigation.
Sacred Heart also got a temporary restraining order against Frazier Monday to keep him off hospital grounds and away from staff members who reported the alleged threats.
Deaconess Medical Center and Valley Hospital and Medical Center suspended Frazier’s privileges for 14 days after learning of the felony charge Tuesday. Officials will investigate the charges and determine whether the suspension will be extended.
Court papers filed by police Wednesday listed a litany of threats Frazier supposedly made against Dr. Curtis Wickre, the medical director of the kidney center at Sacred Heart.
In mid-May, Frazier called a nurse at the kidney dialysis branch in Coeur d’Alene and, according to court documents, said: “I hate Dr. Wickre. I mean hate. I really hate him.”
Frazier then said if he and Wickre were in the woods together, Wickre would disappear and no one would know what happened to him, the records say.
The nurse told her supervisor about the conversation during a staff meeting June 3.
Also in mid-May, the records say, Frazier told another nurse at the Sacred Heart kidney center that he was “getting a lot better at target practice because every time I shoot, I see Dr. Wickre’s face on the target. I am going to kill Dr. Wickre.” Frazier also told the nurse not to tell anyone else what he said.
She told Wickre about the threat June 4.
When Wickre became medical director of the kidney center several years ago, his relationship with Frazier deteriorated, according to court records. Wickre said Frazier believed either he or someone from his group should have been medical director.
At times, Wickre told police, Frazier did not provide appropriate care for his patients.
Since learning of the threats, Wickre said, he’s moved his family out of their home and cut his practice to emergency cases only. He said a security guard follows him everywhere.
Dr. Mary Anne McDonald, a former partner of Frazier’s at Northwest Nephrology, told investigators that Frazier carried weapons to work in his car trunk at least twice.
In February 1995, McDonald went to Frazier’s home on High Drive for dinner. She told police he had a large rifle on the dining-room floor, with a large scope and a tripod, pointed out his window.
Frazier said he liked to target joggers as they ran by his house and enjoyed watching them try to figure out the source of the red laser dot on their chests, McDonald said.
She said she never returned to his home. It’s unclear when she reported Frazier’s actions.
Rohr questioned why everyone waited to report the threats against Wickre if they were so concerned.
“These two nurses, they’re so concerned about the threat to public safety they wait three weeks?” he said. “And McDonald - she waits over two years? All of a sudden, in one day, everyone is, ‘Oh my God.”’
Rohr said Frazier has collected guns for 30 years and carries them in his trunk if he plans to go shooting after work. Frazier voluntarily turned over his 23 guns to police Thursday, and none had a laser sight, Rohr said.
Hospital officials wouldn’t say much about Frazier.
“When personal safety is at stake, it’s important to be pretty conservative with what you share publicly,” said Marilyn Thordarson, hospital spokeswoman. “We have definitely added to our security, enhanced our security, because threats were made.”
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