Lakewood doctor charged with violations at clinic
BY JOYCE BLAY
LAKEWOOD — A township doctor has been charged with multiple violations in regard to a clinic he operates on East County Line Road.
Specifically, Dr. Flavius Moses Thompson, owner of the Pleasant Women’s Pavilion, has been charged with flushing medical waste down a toilet at his clinic.
In connection with the allegation, investigators are attempting to determine if the purity of the Metedeconk River may have been compromised.
Last year, a fire at a store on Main Street produced runoff that entered Lake Shenandoah, killing thousands of fish before being contained. The lake flows into the Metedeconk.
On Jan. 15, Thompson was arrested and charged with flushing medical waste down a toilet at the Pleasant Women’s Pavilion. The waste is treated by a utilities authority and eventually discharged into the Metedeconk.
Last summer, New Jersey lawmakers enacted protective barriers to maintain the integrity of the river’s drinking water, but the measure is no guarantee against pollution.
The latest incident came to light after Lakewood resident Liza Berdiel, 24, was arrested on Jan. 13 and charged with performing abortions without a medical license, according to Detective Larry Doyle of the Lakewood Police Department, who is investigating the case.
Berdiel, a receptionist at the Pleasant Women’s Pavilion, was employed by Thompson. Berdiel is a licensed phlebotomist, said Doyle.
After Thompson noticed that his drugs were short, he became suspicious that Berdiel was performing abortions herself and pocketing his patients’ cash payments, said Doyle. Thompson contacted the authorities and Berdiel was charged with injecting abortion inducing chemicals in three women who Doyle said were patients of Thompson.
Berdiel was also charged with three counts of theft by deception for accepting $380 for each procedure, as well as theft and forgery for using a stolen prescription pad to write a prescription for one of the patients, according to Lakewood police Capt. Rob Lawson.
“We suspect [there were] more [victims], but no one else has come forward,” said Doyle. “There was a fourth victim we identified, but she would not come in.”
Doyle declined comment as to whether
any of the patients suffered complications as a result of abortions not performed by a licensed doctor.
The detective said Berdiel’s attorney, S. Karl Mohel, of Lacey, arranged to have her surrender to police at headquarters on Jan. 13. She was released on $20,000 bail several hours after being charged by Lakewood police and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.
Doyle and Senior Investigator Steven Budelman of the prosecutor’s office are conducting the investigation.
Thompson’s activities came under police scrutiny as a result of the receptionist’s arrest, said Doyle.
“During our investigation we found that medical waste material was being improperly disposed of down the sanitary sewer at that location,” said Doyle, referring to the toilet there. “He also has a facility in Barnegat, but we have no suspicion that any further illegal activity is going on at that location at this time.”
According to Doyle, Thompson was charged with illegal storage of Class 4 medical waste (syringes and needles) since his license to generate medical waste had expired; causing the disposal of medical waste that included blood products; and violation of the Clean Waters Act for disposing of aborted materials into the sanitary sewer system, which flows into the Metedeconk River after being treated by the Ocean County Utilities Authority.
The two charges of improper storage of waste and violation of the Clean Waters Act are third degree crimes, said Doyle. The third charge is a fourth degree crime.
If found guilty of the third degree crimes, Thompson could be sentenced from three to five years in prison in addition to being assessed substantial monetary fines. The fourth degree crime would be punishable by up to 18 months in jail as well as assessment of monetary fines.
“In order for him to discharge medical waste into that sewer system he would need an appropriate permit,” said Doyle. “However, according to the [utilities] authority, they would never grant a permit to dispose of such waste.”
Doyle said that normally such waste would be disposed of by a licensed laboratory facility after being transported there by a regulated waste hauler.
The matter is still under investigation. However, Doyle said police were working with the state Attorney General’s office to examine whether Thompson would continue to be permitted to operate the clinic.
Thompson, who is not a member of the American Medical Association, is a graduate of St. Petersburg State Pediatric Medical Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. He performed his residency at Staten Island University Hospital, New York, in obstetrics and gynecology. His license to practice medicine in New Jersey is due to expire on June 30, 2005, according to information from the state Department of Consumer Affairs on an Internet Web site. The site also indicates that no other complaints have been filed against him.
Thompson was arrested, charged, processed and released on Jan. 15.
Doyle said that Budelman, an environmental crimes unit investigator with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, and representatives of the criminal investigative unit of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department were present when the doctor was charged by Lakewood police, as well as representatives from the Ocean County Department of Health and the medical board of licensing of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice.
Police are asking anyone who may have been treated by Berdiel to contact Doyle at the Lakewood Police Department, (732) 363-0200, ext. 5345.