Naples doctor's arrest creates fallout in practice, courts and perhaps state licensing


 Name: FRANCO, NICHOLAS
 Charge: OBSCENE MATERIAL- PROMOTE PHOTO MOVIE SEX PERFORM CHILD
 Residence: NAPLES
 Age: 56
 Occupation: DOCTOR/UROLOGY
 Case #: N/A


  • Name: FRANCO, NICHOLAS
  • Charge: OBSCENE MATERIAL- PROMOTE PHOTO MOVIE SEX PERFORM CHILD
  • Residence: NAPLES
  • Age: 56
  • Occupation: DOCTOR/UROLOGY
  • Case #: N/A

— A week after Naples urologist Nicholas Franco was charged with 50 counts of possession of child pornography on his home computer, health-care regulators in Tallahassee are likely waiting in the wings.

Physicians can face two kinds of legal actions when accused of crimes: trials if court cases go that far and state Board of Medicine discipline. That can include suspension or revocation of their licenses.

Franco's license so far remains clear and active.

When a doctor faces criminal charges, the state Health Department usually opens an investigation but may not act until the criminal case is resolved. The state investigations are conducted on behalf of the medical board, which decides what measures to take.

"(The state) usually just backs off and lets the criminal case play out," said Lee Hollander, a defense attorney in Naples and former state prosecutor. "If there is a conviction in the criminal case, then they use the criminal case to revoke the license."

An exception to waiting is when state health investigators believe the doctor's actions pose a threat to patient safety. In that event, the state surgeon general can issue an emergency restriction or suspension of the doctor's license.

"On the child pornography (charges), does this guy have any contact with pediatric patients?" said Jeff Cohen, a Delray Beach attorney who specializes in cases involving physicians. "If not, you probably won't see an emergency suspension of the license."

Franco, 56, of Golden Gate, couldn't be reached for comment. He was released from the Collier County jail last week after posting $250,000 bond. The prosecutor in the case, Steve Maresca, said he doesn't know who Franco is hiring as his defense attorney.

Dr. William Figlesthaler, founding partner of Specialists in Urology where Franco practiced, said Franco was terminated immediately after the group learned of the charges.

"We had absolutely no inkling whatsoever there was any issue," Figlesthaler said. "It was a total surprise but we can't have any part of that in the practice."

Franco's patients are being transferred to other physicians in the group.

"The patients in his care have been understanding and we have begun to schedule them with others in the group," he said.

Figlesthaler said Franco has three years left in his non-compete clause, which covers Collier and Lee counties. That means he won't be able to practice locally.

In regard to whether Franco treated children, Figlesthaler said he may have occasionally seen a child.

"His practice was largely women, he specialized in bladder dysfunction," he said. "He mainly treated older women and older men."

Franco's hospital privileges with Physicians Regional Healthcare System have been suspended, spokeswoman Taylor Hamilton said.

NCH Healthcare System spokeswoman Debbie Curry said he doesn't have privileges at NCH hospitals.

* * * * *

Franco's court case is in its early stages and he hasn't been proven guilty.

But in situations where there is a criminal conviction of a doctor, it doesn't always mean state discipline; there needs to be a direct relationship with the criminal action to the practice or the doctor's ability to practice medicine, said Tampa attorney Bruce Lamb, who represents doctors.

"Certain things, such as inappropriate prescribing, is clearly linked because they relate to the practice of medicine," Lamb said. "Other categories of crimes may or may not relate. The underlying criminal conduct has to be directly related to the practice of medicine or ability to practice medicine. It's more subjective."

That may be the outcome with Dr. James Schaller, a Naples child psychiatrist who was adjudicated guilty on one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in September. He pleaded no contest to a third-degree felony for pointing a gun at a teenage neighbor. He was sentenced to four years' probation.

State records show Schaller's license is clear and active, and there's no closed or open administrative complaint, health department spokeswoman Ashley Carr said.


 Name: SCHALLER, JAMES L
 Charge:  AGG ASSAULT - WITH DEADLY WEAPON WO INTENT TO KILL
 Residence: Naples
 Age: 50
 Occupation: RESEARCH PHYSIC

CCSO


  • Name: SCHALLER, JAMES L
  • Charge: AGG ASSAULT - WITH DEADLY WEAPON WO INTENT TO KILL
  • Residence: Naples
  • Age: 50
  • Occupation: RESEARCH PHYSIC

In other cases where a criminal proceeding doesn't go forward against a doctor, the state can act on its own if it believes the public's safety is jeopardized, Lamb said.

The state's larger role with physicians is medical quality assurance; to investigate complaints that they may have violated quality-of-care standards, engaged in inappropriate behavior which harms patients, or other infractions.

That's the case for Bonita Springs cardiologist Zannos Grekos, whose license was restricted in early 2011 when he performed a stem cell procedure on a patient, using her own blood, which the state said was unorthodox and endangered the patient.

The patient, a 69-year-old woman, fell a few hours later, suffered brain injuries and was taken off life support.

This past March, the surgeon general suspended Grekos' license, contending the doctor violated the restriction by assisting another physician in a stem cell procedure in his Bonita Springs practice. That patient, a 77-year-old man, suffered a heart attack and died at a local hospital the same day.

Zannos Grekos

Photo by Allie Garza

Zannos Grekos

After the second patient death, the Lee County Sheriff's Office confirmed it was conducting a criminal investigation of Grekos but he wasn't arrested.

"There's been no major change in the case," Lee sheriff's spokesman Tony Schall said Friday.

* * * * *

Physicians have different avenues for responding to an administrative complaint or license suspension; they generally opt to contest the allegations through a hearing before an administrative law judge, a proceeding similar to a trial with evidence and witnesses.The administrative law judge's finding and recommended action goes to the medical board, which has the final say on discipline.

Grekos has opted for administrative hearings.

In most cases, the medical board follows the recommended order of the administrative judge, said George Indest, an Orlando attorney who specializes in defending physicians.

In some instances, the board might increase a fine, or suspend or revoke a license.

"They will disapprove a settlement agreement and make a counter offer. Sometimes they don't feel the settlement terms are strict enough," Indest said.

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 25

savethewhalz writes:

Dr. Grekos is probably ecstatic for some free publicity. Meanwhile signore Franco, not so much.

BobbyLupo writes:

Franco needs to go for the dirt nap.

HAP writes:

The world is one screwed up place to allow him to keep his license.

volochine writes:

Another of countless black comedies in Florida. To the many illiterate residents of Florida, a black comedy is about a situation so bad, that it becomes funny, because that is all you can do is laugh. Dr. Strangelove, M*A*S*H*, and Catch 22 are great examples of satiric black comedies.

I laughed because while the State goes through its legal gyrations, his "partners" cut him so fast, it was like they knew about his "habit".

Dr. William Figlesthaler, founding partner of Specialists in Urology where Franco practiced, said Franco was terminated immediately after the group learned of the charges.

"We had absolutely no inkling whatsoever there was any issue," Figlesthaler said. "It was a total surprise but we can't have any part of that in the practice."

Yeah, right.

RayPray writes:

"Dr. William Figlesthaler, founding partner of Specialists in Urology where Franco practiced, said Franco was terminated immediately after the group learned of the charges."

>>> So much for concept of being innocent till proven guilty/

>>> Wonder why NDN is crucifying Franco while buried the week before case against the fat-cat real estate guy with Bill McCullom among his friends?

stella877 writes:

Just another day living in the Estates

staghorn writes:

in the early 90's there was a male doctor in naples who would enter into his office exam rooms nude to visit his female patients.

swfl_ff writes:

in response to RayPray:

"Dr. William Figlesthaler, founding partner of Specialists in Urology where Franco practiced, said Franco was terminated immediately after the group learned of the charges."

>>> So much for concept of being innocent till proven guilty/

>>> Wonder why NDN is crucifying Franco while buried the week before case against the fat-cat real estate guy with Bill McCullom among his friends?

Funny how the NDN buried that other story so quick. Of course it would not have anything to do with the all the advertising dollars that real estate firm spends at the NDN would it? Oh no, of course not.

A dirt bag is a dirt bag.

Niki_6 writes:

in response to volochine:

Another of countless black comedies in Florida. To the many illiterate residents of Florida, a black comedy is about a situation so bad, that it becomes funny, because that is all you can do is laugh. Dr. Strangelove, M*A*S*H*, and Catch 22 are great examples of satiric black comedies.

I laughed because while the State goes through its legal gyrations, his "partners" cut him so fast, it was like they knew about his "habit".

Dr. William Figlesthaler, founding partner of Specialists in Urology where Franco practiced, said Franco was terminated immediately after the group learned of the charges.

"We had absolutely no inkling whatsoever there was any issue," Figlesthaler said. "It was a total surprise but we can't have any part of that in the practice."

Yeah, right.

Why would you think that doctors in his office would have any idea what he does on his personal home computer? I'm sure he didn't go into the office on monday and start broadcasting that he's a sick pervert to his peers. Any business in their right mind would termintate someone who brings this kinds of negative press through these charges to the practice. Innocent or not (I'm going with not), they can't keep him on staff until he's sentenced, whenever that may be.

mwyatt22 writes:

Maybe it was part of his contract. A lot of places are like that. If you get arrested for a felony, it's grounds for termination. It would not be surprising given that a lot of medical practices want to avoid any bad publicity.

EnoughCorporateGreed (Inactive) writes:

in response to mwyatt22:

Maybe it was part of his contract. A lot of places are like that. If you get arrested for a felony, it's grounds for termination. It would not be surprising given that a lot of medical practices want to avoid any bad publicity.

Too late...

Beachglow writes:

The medical profession is not exempt from strange people with distinct problems.

kelliewest writes:

I open the NDN online almost every single day, sometimes multiple times per day.

How is it that this article is "just now" catching my attention? Why isn't this ***FRONT AND CENTER*** news?

I see that there's a previous article in addition to this one. But it wasn't a headliner. Neither is this one. That's just crazy.

An article reporting child porn charges against a urologist who closely examines the under-the-underwear region of his patients - likely including CHILDREN - isn't important enough to spotlight?? I cannot even describe how disgusted I am, at both Franco AND THE NDN.....

kelliewest writes:

Were any patients in the pictures?

This article really creeps me out, mostly lack of information. I wish there was more detail available, like describing the full story without describing the actual evidence.

tanmed961 writes:

in response to kelliewest:

I open the NDN online almost every single day, sometimes multiple times per day.

How is it that this article is "just now" catching my attention? Why isn't this ***FRONT AND CENTER*** news?

I see that there's a previous article in addition to this one. But it wasn't a headliner. Neither is this one. That's just crazy.

An article reporting child porn charges against a urologist who closely examines the under-the-underwear region of his patients - likely including CHILDREN - isn't important enough to spotlight?? I cannot even describe how disgusted I am, at both Franco AND THE NDN.....

Historically speaking, NDN seems to have a professional approach with unbiased stances on news stories.

tanmed961 writes:

in response to kelliewest:

Were any patients in the pictures?

This article really creeps me out, mostly lack of information. I wish there was more detail available, like describing the full story without describing the actual evidence.

I am convinced that they didn't report more information because the investigation is ongoing...

kelliewest writes:

My message above isn't clear -- sorry.

I was wondering whether any of the pictures are actually 'clinical' in nature vs. 'seductive' in nature. Either is creepy, but that information would be good for NDN to provide....

chafon writes:

What happenned with innocent until proven guilty? What if it was someone else using his computer like a neihgboor, a relative living in the house. someone that recently visit? What if it was planted there?

kelliewest writes:

If someone used Dr. Franco's computer at Dr. Franco's house, then Dr. Franco knows who it was and should have turned them in as soon as the cops showed up to take him in.

kelliewest writes:

in response to chafon:

What happenned with innocent until proven guilty? What if it was someone else using his computer like a neihgboor, a relative living in the house. someone that recently visit? What if it was planted there?

If someone used Dr. Franco's computer at Dr. Franco's house, then Dr. Franco knows who it was and should have turned them in as soon as the cops showed up to take him.

kelliewest writes:

in response to tanmed961:

I am convinced that they didn't report more information because the investigation is ongoing...

But it's been 2 full weeks!! Are the cops slow or is the NDN slow to follow up?

kelliewest writes:

in response to tanmed961:

Historically speaking, NDN seems to have a professional approach with unbiased stances on news stories.

The key word in your post is "NEWS."

THIS is NEWS....a local urologist charged with possession of kiddie porn. This needs to be reported.

On the other hand, the dozen or so pictures from the Harley Davidson bikini contest a few weeks back.....NOT "NEWS."

I'm tired of the media (not limited to NDN) spotlighting or sensationalizing things that aren't newsworthy and "burying" things that are not only newsworthy, but are also quite alarming.

I feel like the media has a volume control knob, and NDN turned the volume down on something that they should have blared.

chafon writes:

in response to kelliewest:

If someone used Dr. Franco's computer at Dr. Franco's house, then Dr. Franco knows who it was and should have turned them in as soon as the cops showed up to take him.

Kelliewest: Maybe he should have done that if he knew. The botton line is that we do not know if he is guilty or not. HE is be3ing accused and he deserves everything that is happening to him if he did it, but on the other hand if he is not guilty, he is paying a high price already and being accused of guilt.

Gamer123 writes:

in response to chafon:

What happenned with innocent until proven guilty? What if it was someone else using his computer like a neihgboor, a relative living in the house. someone that recently visit? What if it was planted there?

Even if it's planted or if someone else is using his computer he needs to be able to prove it or he will be prosecuted for it. If someone uses your wi fi and isn't in your home for illegal activity you can get in legal troubles for it! That's why password protect your networks and electronics! Either way this guy looks like a perv! Doesn't mean he did it. Doesn't mean he didnt. That's for the courts And 12 of our peers to decide.

chafon writes:

in response to Gamer123:

Even if it's planted or if someone else is using his computer he needs to be able to prove it or he will be prosecuted for it. If someone uses your wi fi and isn't in your home for illegal activity you can get in legal troubles for it! That's why password protect your networks and electronics! Either way this guy looks like a perv! Doesn't mean he did it. Doesn't mean he didnt. That's for the courts And 12 of our peers to decide.

That is my point "The courts to decide". For all matter, it doesn't matter what the courts decide, if he is declared innocent, public court made a ruling already. For those that have not dealt with police and prosecutors, no matter wether someone is innocent or guilty, if they think you are guilty, they will do "WHATEVER" to win the case, irregardless of finding evidence that could point to the contrary. Botton line is TO WIN, not TRUE JUSTICE. To add NDN had rule as well. You don't see NDN publihing pics of those that have been cleared by courts. And NDN web pics stay FOREVER when you do a search on that person. So be carefull and try not to be accused, because you will be guilty NO MATTER WHAT.

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