Yakima optometrist accused of using patients in foreign lottery scams

YAKIMA, Wash. - A Yakima optometrist accused of using patients to help him participate in foreign lottery scams has been charged with unprofessional conduct by the state Board of Optometry. His lawyer, however, says his client did nothing wrong.

Dr. Gary J. Martinkus was notified of the charge last month. Possible disciplinary actions range from probation to a suspension of his optometry license for up to three years.

According to records in the case provided by the state Department of Health, Martinkus is accused of violating a court order in his divorce by repeatedly having patients or employees make money transfers on his behalf to fraudulent foreign lotteries.

The state says at least five patients were recruited for the money transfers.

None of the transfers involved patient or employee money, according to the documents, and Martinkus is not accused of any criminal wrongdoing.

One patient allegedly sent five moneygrams of $1,000 each to Jamaica in August 2008, according to the documents, while another who obliged the doctor got a $100 discount on glasses.

Another patient allegedly made as many as 15 transfers for Martinkus in October 2008. The same patient then received telephone calls announcing prizes had been won. When the patient refused to speak to the caller, the calls became threatening or obscene.

The documents further allege that Martinkus became inattentive to patients. One patient supposedly received a prescription three times the normal dose. Martinkus also intimidated employees of his eye clinic into making transfers, according to the documents.

The FBI twice tried to warn Martinkus that he was the victim of "Nigerian fraud schemes," according to the documents, which also described the scams as foreign lotteries involving links to Jamaica.

Martinkus' attorney, Gerald Tarutis of Seattle, described the allegations as the product of "people who care for Dr. Martinkus but misunderstood what was happening at the time."

He doubted his client would face any sanctions on the grounds that "he hasn't done anything wrong," and noted that Martinkus faces no current restrictions on his license to practice.

Said Tarutis, "His ability to provide excellent optometric care has never been in doubt."