Evanston doctor still jailed as FBI looks into shooting

Evan Hessel

An Evanston podiatrist suspected in the slaying of one of his patients will continue to be held without bond as federal authorities investigate the shooting, as well as previous charges of Medicare fraud and obstruction of justice.

U.S. Attorney Peter Fitzgerald has about two months to issue an indictment against Dr. Ronald Mikos before he is eligible to be released from police custody, said John Beal, Mikos’ attorney. If indicted, Mikos would appear in district court and could face any combination of charges of Medicare fraud, obstruction of justice or murder.

The FBI is continuing its investigation by interviewing other patients and searching for forensic evidence, particularly the weapon used to kill Brannon, said Frank Bochte, an FBI spokesman.

“He is the lead suspect in our investigation,” Bochte said.

Mikos’ attorney Beal has stated publicly that his client had no involvement in the shooting death of 54-year-old Joyce Brannon, a patient of Mikos’. Beal said he does not think the U.S. attorney has sufficient evidence to charge his client with murder.

“My understanding is that the evidence is entirely circumstantial,” he said. “I would assume that the federal attorney would not charge (Mikos) with murder without more compelling evidence.”

Beal said he is aware of investigations into Mikos’ phone records, as well as the recent discovery of scripted responses he told patients to use in interviews with federal authorities. The U.S. Attorney’s Office on Wednesday declined to comment on plans to indict Mikos.

A U.S. magistrate ordered that Mikos be taken into police custody following a Feb. 11 detention hearing, when the federal court determined that Mikos might be a threat to society, according to Beal.

Mikos was first arrested Feb. 5 and charged with obstruction of justice after investigators said he attempted to dissuade Brannon from testifying before a federal grand jury investigating Mikos for possible Medicare fraud.

Federal agents began investigating Mikos in August 2000 after learning that he billed Medicare for more than 600 procedures for only six patients, 87 of which were attributed to Brannon, according to the U.S. attorney’s Office. Mikos billed Medicare for more than $1 million in service claims between 1995 and 2000.

The investigation focused on charges that Mikos billed Medicare for operating on patients’ feet when he actually performed toenail clippings and other nonsurgical procedures, according to a statement released from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

A criminal complaint filed Feb. 5 stated that Brannon told a friend Mikos had said Brannon’s testimony could ruin his medical practice, and Mikos told Brannon she could say she forgot the exact procedures. Mikos’ cell phone records indicate that he made calls to Brannon and other patients a few days before Brannon was scheduled to testify in federal court, according to the statement.

Mikos was arrested about two weeks after Brannon was found dead in her Chicago apartment.

Investigations revealed Brannon was shot six times in the head and neck with a .22-caliber revolver, the same type of gun police returned to Mikos three days earlier after temporarily confiscating it from his storage facility along with six other handguns. The weapons were taken after a police investigation revealed Mikos’ firearms owner’s identification card had expired.