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Drugs, sex swap trial begins

| Wednesday, April 9, 2003

UNIONTOWN - A Fayette County physician went on trial Tuesday for allegedly prescribing narcotics in exchange for sexual favors from a patient who later became addicted to the painkillers.

Dr. Mark S. Fremd, 48, of 205 N. Carnegie St., Connellsville, has a lengthy criminal history and has had his medical license suspended in Pennsylvania for a prior criminal conviction.

Patient Nancy J. Mickey testified Tuesday at Fremd's trial that the doctor proposed the sex-for-drugs exchange when she couldn't pay his $45 office visit fee.

He said "that we could figure out some other method of payment, not through insurance or money-wise - through having sex, basically," she said.

Mickey said Fremd prescribed her 20 Percocet tablets per visit, or sometimes fewer "so I would have to come back."

In addition to the sex-for-drugs allegations, Fremd is charged with allegedly billing more than $1 million in injections that he never administered. He also faces charges for allegedly having others sell painkillers on the street for him.

Defense Attorney Paul Gettleman said the case is suspect because it turns on the testimony of people who could have been charged for criminal acts relative to this case, but were not.

"There's no corroboration," he said.

Gettleman attacked Mickey's testimony as incredible because she said that over the four-year period she went to see Fremd, she exchanged sex for drugs once or twice a week.

But Gettleman showed Mickey a listing of all her prescriptions obtained from Fremd where there were only four prescriptions over the course of two years.

In answer to other questions about inconsistent statements, Mickey stated that some of her prior sworn statements were not reliable.

"I was strung out, coming down from the pills then," she said.

"So you didn't think it was important to tell (prosecutors) that you were so strung out that you couldn't tell the truth from fiction?" asked Gettleman.

"I was trying to hide it," Mickey said.

Fremd started practicing medicine in Pennsylvania in 1982.

After his 1987 conviction on 49 counts of Medicaid fraud, Fremd was barred from participating in Medicaid or Medicare for 10 years.

His state medical license also was suspended, but the suspension was stayed by the state medical board. He was allowed to practice for two years under a probationary license and was fined $1,000.

Fremd also was acquitted in Fayette County of insurance fraud and theft charges.

In 1991, he was accused of overstating medical care given to patients who allegedly saw him only briefly.

Fremd remains free on $50,000 bond.

The trial is expected to continue the rest of the week before Judge Steve Leskinen.

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