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Jay Glickman traveled from Philadelphia in the spring of 2012 to the neon lights of Las Vegas, the city that assures visitors that the decisions they make there won’t follow them home.

Glickman, a physician, wasn’t alone. He was accompanied by a 23-year-old man who was his patient.

During the trip — which Glickman later described as a “medical retreat” — he allegedly plied the man with drugs and alcohol until he overdosed, and then sexually assaulted him, the man would later claim in a lawsuit.

Another patient had accused Glickman in a lawsuit of similar behavior in 2009. Glickman was never charged with a crime.

Glickman denied assaulting his patient in Las Vegas, but recalled that paramedics arrived to help the man. “I know that he got sick vomiting, but I would not say he needed to be revived or anything,” Glickman said during a deposition.

At the same time, Glickman had plenty of other patients: hundreds of Philadelphia police officers who’d been injured in the line of duty. The city paid Glickman, and a partner at his office, Independence Medical Associates, $1.3 million between 2006 and 2012 to care for police officers who reported being hurt. Glickman, handpicked for the job by the police union, determined when the officers could return to work.

For the last two decades, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 has had the power to select doctors who treat injured cops on Pennsylvania’s generous Heart and Lung disability benefit. Some officers remain unavailable for months, even years, far longer than accepted treatment guidelines recommend.

This uncommon arrangement, the result of a 2003 agreement between the city and the union, is rife with potential conflict, according to medical ethicists: To maintain a stream of patients and reliable revenue, doctors may feel obligated to keep an officer out of work longer than medically appropriate.

» READ MORE: More than 650 Philly cops say they’re too hurt to work. But some are holding down second jobs.

Since 2004, the FOP has chosen seven long-term doctors, all of whom belonged to small or solo practices. Five have some history of alleged questionable behavior, The Inquirer has found. All of those five, including Glickman, worked out of practices that operated lucrative diet-pill businesses for cash. One of the doctors falsely claimed in 2020 to be a Philadelphia police officer when she was arrested for drunk driving. And two have struggled with financial troubles that ended in bankruptcy.

These findings — coupled with longtime complaints from police and city officials about some doctors’ evaluations of police injuries — raise the question of why the FOP selected these doctors, especially in a medical hub like Philadelphia.

FOP president John McNesby declined to be interviewed by The Inquirer. And neither McNesby nor Terry Reid, the union’s disability coordinator, responded to emailed questions about the union’s process for vetting the doctors.

City leaders, police officials, and the union have each faced scrutiny for their oversight of the Heart and Lung benefit since early February, when an Inquirer investigation revealed that the number of officers deemed by doctors as unavailable to work had more than doubled since 2017, reaching one in seven patrol officers. Since these officers, while out, are not subject by law to state or federal income taxes on their police pay, they essentially receive a 20% raise.

Findings from part 1 of our investigation

➤ Philly police injury claims have doubled since 2017.

➤ Officers are deemed unable to work at rates vastly higher than those of other large cities. As of last fall, one in seven patrol officers were listed as unable to work.

➤ Reported injuries have fallen 30% over the last decade, but the total days cops have stayed out on disability has nearly tripled.

➤ Seven current and former commanders say the city has tolerated rampant abuse for years.

➤ Numerous cops who claimed to be injured worked physically strenuous outside jobs, in violation of a police directive.

During the 2021 fiscal year, the city spent $24 million on salaries for police officers who are considered too hurt to work, up from $6.7 million in 2008. Meanwhile, the city endured unprecedented levels of gun violence, and police commanders complained they were hindered by an officer shortage.

In a recent interview, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said doctors who treat injured police officers are expected to be people of “high character and integrity.” Allegations of wrongdoing — whether pertaining to Heart and Lung doctors, or officers who use the benefit — “reflects poorly on all of us,” she said.

“It is frustrating as a police commissioner not having the ability to step in as quickly as I would like and say: ‘Look, we know there’s issues with these doctors. Fix it right now, because it has a direct impact on our staffing today, and ultimately our ability to just be present in the community.’”

In August 2013, the state Board of Osteopathic Medicine placed Glickman on probation for having a sexual relationship with a patient, and the city ended his contract because he no longer had an unrestricted license, as required.

Barry Scott, head of the city’s Office of Risk Management, said he recalls the Glickman case, and how the FOP stood by the physician, insisting that he continue to treat injured officers even after serious allegations emerged.

“The FOP objected to his removal for reasons that I still don’t clearly understand,” Scott said.

Eventually, the FOP agreed in an arbitration settlement with the city that Glickman would leave the program.

“It was like the fact that they had recommended him was more important than what anyone else thought, including the state medical licensure board,” Scott said.

Glickman, 54, is now a Realtor. He boasts on his website that his “many years of helping people in the healthcare industry” are an asset. Contacted by phone, Glickman said he was “not interested” in speaking with a reporter.

The disability program drastically slowed in late December, when one Heart and Lung doctor, Rocco Costabile, resigned, and then came to a near standstill for more than three months beginning in April, after another, Richard Berger, stepped away. Both practiced at Holmesburg Family Medicine.

“I can say this is the third city that I’ve worked in,” Outlaw said. “I don’t recall seeing a process like this.”

Impact so far of our police disability investigation

➤ Lawmakers in Harrisburg introduced a bill to crack down on fraud and abuse within the Philadelphia police disability program, known as Heart and Lung, by requiring doctors be selected independently of the police union.

➤ Police Internal Affairs is investigating several officers who had worked other jobs while being paid public benefits for being too injured to do police work.

➤ Weekly full-salary injury claims – 645 in September 2021 – dropped below 550 in the months following the February investigation, while the percentage of injured officers cleared to testify in court tripled from 10% to 30%.

➤ The City Controller’s Office is reviewing the Heart and Lung program as part of an audit of the Police Department requested by Council.

➤ At least one case of alleged fraud is under investigation by the District Attorney’s Office.

Longer treatment, higher costs

On a late October day in 2003, Bobby Eddis signed a document that gave the FOP something it had sought since the mid-1990s. Eddis, the union’s then-president, reached a settlement agreement between the city and the union that ended legal squabbling over the state’s Heart and Lung disability benefit.

The city agreed to comply with the terms of the state law: Officers who were too hurt to work would receive 100% of their pay while they recovered, and there would be no limit on how long they could receive the benefit. There was more: After years of FOP complaints about injured cops receiving poor care from city doctors, the union secured the right to select the physicians who would treat their members, provided they met “the city’s medical certification requirements.”

In other cities, such as New York City and Chicago, police unions do not have the authority to designate which doctors treat injured cops and decide when they return to work. Some, like Baltimore and Phoenix, use large health-care networks or independent medical examiners to handle police injury claims.

“I don’t think that having the union have input on [selecting] the doctors who are in the system is necessarily a bad thing,” said Michael Mulvey, a lawyer who worked for the FOP in the 2000s. “To me, it would be bad if every time [a doctor] turned around, the FOP was on the phone with them. That I would have trouble with.”

Mulvey, who helped the union select one Heart and Lung doctor in 2004, said he didn’t know firsthand how the FOP selected the others.

“My understanding is that the FOP would send its disability coordinator, and perhaps some of their trustees, to speak with these doctors,” he said. “Now, what went on in those meetings, I have no idea.”

A year later, in January 2005, the union picked its second Heart and Lung doctor: Glickman. It took only a few months for the first signs of trouble to emerge.

That September, a Feasterville couple, Trina and John Firth, filed a malpractice lawsuit against Glickman. Trina Firth had been a patient of his since the late 1990s. Beginning in 2001, she complained of an array of health problems, including numbness in her extremities, stomach ailments, and weight loss. Glickman dismissed her symptoms, the lawsuit alleged, and failed to properly evaluate her or order appropriate tests. Instead, he prescribed a sedative, the Firths told The Inquirer.

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But Firth’s problems continued. She developed a life-threatening Vitamin B-12 deficiency that progressed to pernicious anemia and neuropathy, according to the lawsuit. Medical experts for Firth concluded that Glickman’s failure to diagnose her in a timely manner led to her chronic condition. Experts for Glickman in reports wrote that most of her complaints were not characteristic of a B-12 deficiency, and her claim that it has permanently harmed her could not be substantiated.

Firth said she still suffers from the illnesses’ fallout. At 58, she can barely walk, she said, and rarely leaves the couple’s home in Florida.

“People always ask me how I’m feeling, 1 to 10,” Firth told The Inquirer. “I’m always at a 10, because it hurts like hell, always.”

In 2008, both sides agreed to go through “high/low arbitration,” with set minimum and maximum awards. Because the arbitrator found in favor of Glickman, who argued that Firth couldn’t prove he was to blame for her suffering, Firth received the low amount: $200,000.

Scott, the city’s risk manager since 2003, said city officials had been concerned for years about Glickman’s work. Officers he treated were off the job “significantly” longer, and his costs per claim were “much higher.” But, Scott said, it wasn’t until 2013, when Glickman’s partner left the practice and Glickman’s license was put on probation, that the city could act to remove Glickman as an FOP-approved doctor.

Treating cops had provided Glickman with steady income. In 2003 — the last year before police had access to the Heart and Lung benefit — only 19 officers were listed as having been injured on duty. By 2009, that number had climbed to nearly 300, and city officials began to publicly question whether the benefit was being abused. That same year, the city paid Glickman’s practice $214,730.

Go-to guy to stay off work

Glickman soon added another lucrative enterprise to his regular stream of injured police officers: diet pills.

One day in 2006, Albert Kofsky, a physician with a tiny office in Northeast Philadelphia, left a note on his office door that he was retiring, directing patients who were interested in continuing a weight-loss program to Glickman, according to deposition testimony.

A Glickman employee testified that Glickman called her on a Sunday, asking to help him set up an empty suite to accommodate the patients.

“So we started seeing diet patients in Suite D the next day,” Glickman’s staffer said.

Glickman quickly registered a new business with the state, Lose Weight Philly PC.

What Glickman’s staff didn’t know was that Kofsky had been federally indicted for trafficking massive amounts of diet pills under the guise it was part of a legitimate medical practice, when in fact he sold them first-come, first-serve to anyone who had the cash.

Kofsky had operated this $8.7 million pill mill for more than a decade. When authorities searched his home, in Huntingdon Valley, they discovered more than $1 million in cash stuffed between his basement walls.

He was sentenced to a year in federal prison but died at the age of 76 before he was to be released.

Glickman never faced charges. His business, however, was bustling. “Every morning, they’d be lined up out the door for diet pills,” said a male patient of Glickman. The two met in 2006 at the now-defunct club Shampoo, where the man worked as a dancer.

The patient, who is being identified by his initials, J.B., to protect his privacy, said he’d struggled with a drug addiction in the past and had been sober for about five years when he met Glickman. He testified in a deposition for a lawsuit he brought against Glickman that the doctor provided him with an array of addictive medications, like Percocet, Vicodin, and Xanax, along with steroids and diet pills. J.B. testified that many times he would “come out of a drug induced state,” and find Glickman forcing himself on him sexually.

“[H]e just started writing me scripts like there was no tomorrow,” J.B. said. “He would just feed you drugs.”

J.B. said he knew Glickman also treated injured police officers. “He said that he was the guy to go to, to get out of work,” he said.

The FOP, meanwhile, was growing protective of officers’ access to their disability benefit. In 2007, the union’s members elected a new president, John McNesby, a former narcotics officer, who secured better economic benefits for officers, while often resisting disciplinary reforms and work-rule changes that police commissioners sought.

In 2008, during contract negotiations, the city proposed revisions to Heart and Lung, wanting a better process for returning injured cops to light duty, and to put an end to the FOP selecting its own doctors.

Terry Reid, the FOP’s disability coordinator, framed the city’s proposal in blunt terms: “[T]hey want everything,” she said at the time, “and we get nothing.”

The union prevailed.

Mulvey, who still sometimes represents police officers who file injury claims, has long insisted that injured cops shouldn’t be told to see only doctors picked by the union.

In J.B.’s 2009 lawsuit, he alleged that Glickman had coerced him into a sexual relationship by providing him with drugs.

In one of Glickman’s medical notes listing the drugs he prescribed for J.B., he wrote: “hurt ankle: will call it in under the condition of coming over 10/25 & sleep over 10/27 or 28, no ifs, &’s or buts.”

At one point, Glickman expressed remorse to J.B. in a February 2007 letter:

“I have kept you reliant on me for meds and money,” Glickman wrote to J.B., “knowing that you’d have no where else to turn as easily as it was to turn to me and as long as I gave you what you wanted I’d get what I wanted, which was spend time with you.”

The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount in May 2012.

Two years after J.B. sued him, Glickman began treating a new patient for whom he prescribed an abundance of addictive medications — oxycodone, Vicodin, Percocet, Xanax, Ativan — without documenting why they were needed, according to a lawsuit the man filed against the doctor.

Glickman also provided the patient (who asked to be identified as Omar, his middle name, in order to protect his privacy) with blank prescription forms to fill out himself, according to court records. Glickman had also allegedly injected testosterone into Omar’s testicles and scrotum, causing severe pain and swelling.

Even more bizarre was Glickman’s admission in a deposition that he had taken Omar on what he called a “medical retreat” to Las Vegas in 2012, after Omar had undergone surgery for testicular cancer.

Glickman, in the deposition, agreed that he’d had an inappropriate relationship with Omar, but denied much of Omar’s other allegations, including that he’d injected the man with testosterone.

But he did admit that while at home, he ordered and paid for pills online to wean Omar off steroids. He said that he got advice from a dancer in a club, a man he had lived with, about which drugs to order.

“I believed that I was helping him at the time,” Glickman said in his deposition, defending his actions.

The suit was settled and a Common Pleas judge ruled that Glickman deviated from standards of care by providing Omar with certain drugs he bought online, was negligent by failing to document prescriptions for narcotics, and his practice did not implement safeguards to protect Omar.

In 2016, the state Board of Osteopathic Medicine took disciplinary action against Glickman a second time. It suspended him for three months for having a sexual relationship with Omar, and placed him on probation for three years. The board reinstated his license, with probationary status, in 2017, but Glickman turned to commercial real estate and never practiced again.

The other Heart and Lung doctors have not been disciplined by their respective medical boards and their licenses remain in good standing.

Mark G. Graham, a professor of medicine at Sidney Kimmel Medical College and Thomas Jefferson University, served as an expert witness for Omar in his lawsuit against Glickman. Graham criticized the state for choosing only probation as a form of punishment in 2013 for having a sexual relationship with J.B.

“And now he’s at it again,” Graham wrote in his July 2014 report.

“His conduct is reprehensible in two ways,” Graham wrote. “He uses his position as a physician to obtain drugs for his patients in return for sexual gratification; and, he apparently has no regard for the safety of his patients.”

15,000 pills

In 2007, the FOP picked a new practice to treat its injured members. Situated in Northeast Philadelphia, where many lived, Holmesburg Family Medicine became a preferred destination for hundreds of officers.

By then, the number of officers out with injury claims was rapidly climbing. Both city and police officials were growing more upset, saying the well-intentioned benefit was being abused.

Charles H. Ramsey, who served as Philadelphia’s police commissioner from 2008 to 2016, recently called the disability benefit “the biggest scam going.” He said that physicians from top health systems like Penn Medicine should be enlisted to treat and evaluate police injuries, an idea that current officials indicated they could support.

The Holmesburg practice was not restricted to only caring for police officers.

Since 2002, Donna McGinnis had been a regular visitor to Holmesburg’s storefront office, on Frankford Avenue near Rhawn Street. She traveled there almost every month for what the practice described on its website as “physician monitored weight loss programs.”

McGinnis was not treated by a physician during her visits to Holmesburg, according to a pretrial memo, based on discovery, in a lawsuit brought years later by her family. Instead, according to allegations in the lawsuit, a female relative of Joseph Pongonis — the physician who started the practice — sold McGinnis phentermine and phendimetrazine pills for cash, Schedule III and Schedule IV stimulants, similar to amphetamines.

The relative was not a dietitian, nutritionist, or other medical professional. She allegedly recorded McGinnis’ weight, took her blood pressure, then sold her the pills — more than 15,000 between 2002 and 2015.

Both drugs should only be used short-term — no longer than a few weeks — as an adjunct to diet, exercise, and behavior modification, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These two stimulants should not be taken together, and using either one longer than three months can increase the risk of numerous health problems, including heart disease, according to the agency and medical researchers.

» READ MORE: ‘Absolutely repulsive’: Outlaw slams cops who abuse Philly’s injured-on-duty benefits

Holmesburg sold her both drugs over the years, just not on the same day, according to documentation the practice provided the family’s lawyer for the lawsuit.

And because stimulants like these have been extensively abused, “the least amount feasible should be prescribed or dispensed at one time” and are contraindicated in patients with a history of drug abuse, according to the FDA. Caution should be taken for patients “with even mild hypertension.”

McGinnis had hypertension and went into rehab for a diet-pill addiction earlier in life, according to the lawsuit.

The Holmesburg practice had purchased the stimulants in bulk, then repackaged the pills and sold them to McGinnis, according to the family’s lawsuit. (McGinnis’ primary physician also prescribed her phentermine, among several other drugs, and that doctor is named in the lawsuit, too.)

» READ MORE: Reform bill targets ‘disgraceful’ abuse by Philly police of a disability program

When a reporter asked obesity experts about non-doctors dispensing diet pills for years without close monitoring for safety, they characterized it as bad medical practice.

“It certainly doesn’t sound like anything that would be ethical. It sounds like something that would be dangerous,” said G. Michael Steelman, an obesity expert and past president of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians.

“Unfortunately the area of weight loss and obesity is an area that attracts some physicians who are willing to prey on the vulnerability of people for profit. Many people who are obese are absolutely desperate. And these physicians are like pirates out there preying on that desperation,” Steelman said.

McGinnis’ son, Harry Taylor, a Philadelphia police officer, had no idea his mother bought so many diet pills from Holmesburg Family Medicine, which closed in July. She died at the age of 58.

“These doctors rendered no actual treatment to Ms. McGinnis over a 13-year period,” said Richard Hollawell, Taylor’s attorney. “I was astonished to discover that the practice and the doctors were flying under the radar and were selling the diet pills directly to Ms. McGinnis out of their office for over a decade.”

McGinnis was one of around 300 diet-pill customers at Holmesburg, Hollawell said.

“I didn’t even know she was going there until after she died,” Taylor told The Inquirer.

In a bitter twist, Taylor visited the Holmesburg practice in 2012 because he was injured during a car accident while on duty. He was treated by Costabile, and satisfied with the care he received.

But for his mom, during the 13 years the Holmesburg practice supplied McGinnis with diet pills, her weight climbed from 191 pounds to 242 pounds.

Excessive amounts of phentermine and phendimetrazine can cause psychosis. McGinnis was hospitalized seven times between 2011 and 2015 for hallucinations, incoherent speech, and loss of consciousness, due to too many diet pills, the lawsuit alleges.

On Christmas Day in 2015, McGinnis collapsed in her home. She died from cardiac arrest; an autopsy found phentermine and other drugs in her system.

“Losing my mom completely turned my life upside down,” said Taylor, 45, whose father and two brothers had already died. “It’s so hard not having her around anymore.”

In 2017, Taylor sued Holmesburg Family Medicine over his mother’s death. Pongonis, Costabile, and Berger were each named in the lawsuit. They denied in court filings that they were negligent, mistreated McGinnis, or had anything to do with her death. Pongonis did not respond to requests for comment. He retired as a Heart and Lung doctor in 2011, returned in 2018, and retired again in 2019. Costabile, through a lawyer, declined comment. Berger didn’t reply to interview requests.

The same year Taylor filed suit, 2017, Berger filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, declaring that his annual income was $244,903, but had more than $125,000 in unsecured debt, mostly unpaid bills from numerous credit card and utility companies.

The year before, the city had paid Berger and two other Heart and Lung doctors at Holmesburg $404,099. That income doesn’t include payments Berger received to treat other patients.

Two doctors, expert witnesses for Taylor, said that Holmesburg’s “reckless actions caused Ms. McGinnis’ adverse health effects and eventual death.” The Holmesburg doctors denied the allegations of negligence, saying her medical care “was consistent with the applicable standard of care. …”

An arbitrator found the Holmesburg doctors not liable for her death in 2021 because the autopsy didn’t show a direct link between it and the diet pills. The arbitrator did not address the legitimacy of selling her the weight-loss drugs.

“I still believe my mom would be around if it wasn’t for them,” said Taylor.

‘You don’t know who I am, do you?’

After Jay Glickman’s tenure as a Heart and Lung doctor came to an abrupt end in 2013, the FOP was presented with another chance to find a quality caregiver for its members. The union selected Adina Dees — and she too, would run into trouble.

Her handling of at least one case caught the attention of Philadelphia police officials. In 2016, Dees — who also worked at Holmesburg Family Medicine — treated a police officer who claimed to have a lower back injury and was too hurt to perform menial police work, like testifying in court. But that same officer was observed, around that time, riding a large motorcycle.

Dees argued that the motorcycle trip was actually therapeutic, according to two sources familiar with the case. She later backed off that assertion when challenged.

In 2018, while Dees was still treating injured cops, she filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. She reported her annual salary as $156,720, and listed $432,532 worth of assets, and $589,900 in liabilities.

Two years later, in January 2020, a witness told a Morton Borough police officer in Delaware County that she’d seen a woman, identified as Dees, drive her Lexus down some railroad tracks, then back up and strike a railroad gate.

At the scene, the officer smelled alcohol on Dees’ breath, and Dees admitted that she’d had drinks after work. Asked to submit to a sobriety test, Dees claimed that she was a Philadelphia police officer, according to a criminal complaint. Dees was unable to follow directions to walk and turn and stand on one leg.

She refused a breath test, and told the officer she was calling her “FOP attorney.” Her warning didn’t make much difference. Dees was cuffed and told to get into the backseat of the officer’s patrol car.

“You don’t know who I am, do you?” she asked.

The officer found marijuana and marijuana cookies in Dees’ Lexus, and a prescription bottle — with another person’s name on it — with 27 oxycodone-acetaminophen pills.

Dees was charged with DUI and possession of a controlled substance. Since it was her first offense for DUI, Dees was placed in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program and had her charges dismissed after she completed the program.

When asked in an email if the FOP had been aware of the 2020 incident, or whether the union had ever had concerns about Dees’ performance as a Heart and Lung doctor, neither McNesby nor Reid responded.

Dees, whose tenure as a Heart and Lung doctor ended the same year she was arrested for driving under the influence, declined to comment when contacted recently by a reporter.

Long delays for care

The FOP retained the right to select Heart and Lung doctors as part of the three-year, $133 million labor agreement it reached with the city last year. The union did agree, however, that officers should file Heart and Lung claims only if they were injured while performing police work, such as making an arrest or chasing a suspect.

“I don’t speak for the FOP, but I don’t think they want hundreds of people out at one time, because it impacts their membership and the morale,” said Outlaw.

According to multiple sources familiar with the Heart and Lung benefit, the FOP has for months been advising injured officers to not see any other doctors until the union selects a replacement for Berger. As a result, the process of returning at least some injured cops to the force has been further delayed. Instead, they remain at home, collecting full salaries.

Facing a frustrating backlog of injury cases, the city contracted with a new Heart and Lung doctor in July. It’s unclear if the FOP supported this move.

In a recent issue of the FOP’s magazine, Peace Officer, Reid assured the union’s members that their interests were being looked after. “I am constantly looking for doctors,” she wrote, “who will make it a priority to put the needs of the injured officers first.”

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