Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Foreign lottery fixation leads to license revocation for Yakima optometrist

by Andrew Taylor July 13th, 2011

SUMMARY: Yakima-based practitioner Gary Martinkus was found by the Washington State Department of Health’s Board of Optometry to be unfit to practice and to be posing a risk to patients after he involved them and office staff in buying money orders or loaning money to spend in foreign lottery scams. The Board also found Martinkus was becoming negligent in caring for patients and harassing them at home or work. Martinkus’ license was suspended July 5, and he has 20 days to initiate an administrative appeal.

BACKGROUND:

Martinkus has been involved with foreign lottery scams for the last four years, according to official findings. The more Martinkus got involved, the more his optometry work suffered. Martinkus began harassing patients and employees to help feed his habit of buying into fake lotteries. When the Board found out, they launched an investigation, finding that Martinkus had put patients and staff in danger.

KEY LINKS:

Amended statement of charges, May 11, 2011; Washington State Department of Health, Board of Optometry

Summary action order, July 5, 2011, Washington State Department of Health, Board of Optometry

KEY FINDINGS:

  • Beginning in 2007, one of Martinkus’s employees, also indentified as Patient G, noticed that Martinkus was transferring money to foreign accounts to participate in lotteries, and that Martinkus would leave patients mid-exam to answer phone calls and transfer funds. The employee also noticed Martinkus’ distracted behavior, such as forgetting patient records, leaving patients, and not returning to the examination rooms.
  • During 2008, Martinkus solicited various patients to assist him in transferring money into these lottery scams. Martinkus convinced one patient, identified as Patient C, to transfer $5,000 to a man in Jamaica. Patient C did transfer thousands of dollars worth of money overseas but then began to refuse to transfer more for Martinkus. Patient C began receiving calls they had won, but again refused to participate in the scam. Patient C then received threatening phone calls that said the callers would kidnap her and “get rid of her.”
  • During one exam, Martinkus offered a patient $100 to transfer the money for him, but the patient refused. Martinkus then refused to give the patient any medical information. Martinkus offered Patient F offered $1,000 to wire a series of moneygrams for lotteries. Patient F but did not return to Martinkus’s office after discovering Martinkus’s previous habit of asking others to transfer money. Martinkus then went to Patient F’s house, requesting to see him. Patient F did not go to the door. Martinkus waited a couple of minutes and then left.
  • In October 2008, Patient G and Martinkus’s wife began to try to stop other money orders for the lottery scams. At the end of October, Martinkus “shouted” at Patient G and grabbed her by the arm, shaking her.
  • In November 2008, Martinkus’s employees contacted an FBI agent about Martinkus involving patients in foreign lottery scams. The agent warned Martinkus on the phone, but the doctor could not be dissuaded. The agent then went to talk to Martinkus in person the next month. Martinkus “acknowledged” that the people he would wire money to were previously con men, but continued to wire money through 2011.
  • In 2011, Martinkus tried to borrow money from patients for lottery scams. Martinkus would solicit patients during appointments and contact them at home or work. Martinkus would promise $1 million for their initial investment into the lottery with him.
  • Technicians that worked with Martinkus during exams noticed that he was performing poorly while working with patients. Martinkus was forgetting long-term patients’ medications, constantly needing to be put back on task, and becoming confused when performing routine exams.
  • Due to concerns about his conduct, Martinkus underwent examination by a licensed psychologist from Virginia Mason Medial Center in Seattle, who recommended to the state cessation of his optometry practice or “perhaps sustained retirement.” The State Board of Optometry on July 5 issued a summary order suspending Martinkus’ license to practice, finding that he posed an immediate danger to patients. This is just an initial suspension until the Board can have a formal hearing with Martinkus. Martinkus has 20 working days to challenge the suspension.

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