ATHENS – A 47-year-old man who posed as a physician specializing in cancer cases, whose treatment led to the death of three people, was ordered by a council of judges to go on trial, along with 16 other suspects accused of aiding him.
While Greek law generally doesn’t allow disclosure of names unless there is a conviction, he was identified in the media as Nikolaos Kontostathis, and Kathimerini said he had no qualifications, after review of officials.
He will be tried on 12 counts of manslaughter and 14 counts of attempted manslaughter although the report said he tried to exonerate others said to have helped him in the scam, including a former minister and Member of Parliament, several doctors and a nun, all unnamed, whom he said didn’t know he was a fraud.
He reportedly was paid thousands of euros in fees by introducing himself to terminally and seriously ill cancer patients as an oncologist with a pioneering treatment, but in his defense he claimed it was only a placebo.
He will also be charged with causing grievous bodily harm, distribution of controlled substances, serial fraud, forgery and posing as a medical professional, as well as illegal weapons and antiquities possession.
Kontostathis was arrested in June 2020 after a months-long police investigation into complaints regarding the deaths of the three patients, two of whom were minors, the probe revealing more people had been duped.
It wasn’t said why it took authorities so long to uncover a fake doctor or if the country’s panel overseeing physicians was asked to help determine how he set up shop and recruited patients.
In June, he apologized to the families of the three patients but denied he had told them to stop conventional treatments although acknowledging he had no medical training as he told them, but said he’s a self-declared expert on botany.
There was no report on whether he claimed to possess a medical license or degree or how he was able to operate or if he was affiliated with a hospital or the state health care system or able to authorize prescriptions.
The three who died, allegedly due to failure of receiving proper treatment, were aged 14, 16, and 76 and he billed them a total of 58,000 euros ($65,043) but it wasn’t said either if they had state or private insurance and why he wasn’t caught through billing examinations.
Another 35 witnesses came forward after the story broke, the paper reported earlier, including the family of a middle-aged man who died of cancer and the mother of a 17-year-old boy who said her son became wheelchair-bound as a result of the treatment prescribed by the suspect.
Kontothanasis was also sued on charges of taking 55 million euros ($61.88 million) from a Greek businessman between 2005-07 after claiming to have contacts with the United States government.
He claimed that he was acting on a decision of the US government to establish a firm that would sell telecoms equipment to countries and conceal American involvement, a story the duped man bought without question.
He was allegedly involved in at least 45 cases of deception, posing as a medical specialist with various false claims that included being an Air Force medic, a U.S.-trained pediatric oncologist, and an executive member of the International Red Cross.