12.05.11 9:45 AM ET
Michael Jackson Dermatologist Arnold Klein Under Investigation
It may turn out that Dr. Conrad Murray isn’t the only doctor who falls because of medical treatment provided to pop star Michael Jackson.
The Daily Beast has learned that Jackson’s long time dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein of Beverly Hills, recently received a subpoena to appear before the California Medical Board on Dec. 15. The subject at hand will be whether Klein’s medical license should be suspended.
Although the medical board declined comment on the investigation, sources who have been questioned by the board’s investigator say the probe is wide ranging. Questions range from the possibility that Klein self-prescribed narcotics, used false names on narcotics prescriptions, illegally handed out samples of dangerous drugs to his famous patients, and may have committed gross negligence by practicing while afflicted with multiple sclerosis. Klein firmly denies the allegations of ill health, despite an increasing number of reports to the medical board that he does, indeed, have the debilitating disease.
Yet, it is Klein’s long association with Jackson—a continuing source of bragging rights for the doctor—that seems to have been the catalyst for the investigation into the celebrity dermatologist’s practice of medicine.
During the recent Conrad Murray manslaughter trial, at which Murray was found guilty of causing Jackson’s death and sentenced to four years in jail, there was a smidgen of barely noted testimony that revealed Dr. Klein may be in for even more stringent punishment than just having his license yanked.
Lt. Scott Smith, the LAPD’s lead investigator into Jackson’s death, testified that shortly after the case was ruled a homicide, a division of labor was established to avoid any “head butting” with the feds. The LAPD would concentrate on gathering evidence against Dr. Murray while the Drug Enforcement Administration would zero in on other Jackson doctors suspected of providing the pop star with an overabundance of narcotics. Lt. Smith testified that Dr. Arnold Klein’s name was specifically mentioned as a DEA target.
The DEA never comments on its investigations, but law enforcement sources familiar with the way the agency works say the feds were closely watching the manslaughter trial to see what information about Klein surfaced. It is standard operating procedure for the DEA to take its time, gather all possible evidence, and then confront a target to urge a guilty plea. The DEA does not like to proceed unless a case is a slam-dunk.
Klein, who’s known as the “Father of Botox” and the “Dermatologist to the Stars,” was spared having to appear at the Murray trial, even though the centerpiece of the defense was that in the last months of his life, the drug-dependent Jackson’s secret source of narcotics was Klein.
The defense team was allowed to show the jury handwritten notes from Klein’s office showing that in the four months before he died—from March 12 through June 2009—Jackson got dozens of high-potency injections of Demerol during minor dermatological procedures. The entertainer was referred to as “Omar Arnold” on the records shown the jury.
Medical experts testified the average injection of Demerol to ease anxiety is no more than 50mg. Yet, on April 21, the records show, when Jackson arrived to receive Botox injections in his groin “to stop excessive sweating,” he was given a 200mg shot of Demerol to help him get through the procedure. One hour later, he was given more.
The next day, Jackson arrived at Klein’s office at 11:30 a.m. and received another 200mg shot of Demerol before undergoing a facial filling procedure with Restylane. One hour later, the records show, Jackson received an additional 100mg of the narcotic. After another hour the patient was administered a further 75mg of Demerol before he left the office—375mg of narcotics in just three hours is considered a massive dose.
And so it went throughout the weeks and months, until Jackson’s last appointment on June 22, when he was given 100mg of Demerol. This was three days before Jackson died. (The half-life of Demerol begins in the body in just a few hours with nearly all traces of it gone within about 20 hours. That could explain why there was no trace of Demerol found during Jackson’s autopsy.)
The news about Klein’s upcoming Medical Board hearing, added to the recent revelations in court about all that Demerol, might make any other doctor worry. But Klein has now unleashed a very public Facebook diatribe against the board.
Klein frequently maintains that he was “In Europe” during the time Jackson was in his office receiving injections of narcotics. He repeatedly points the finger of blame at his two former medical partners: “It was Dr. David Rish and Dr. Ilya Reyter who should also be called if this investigation involves Mr. Jackson.”
Both Rish and Reyter have communicated with the medical board and with this reporter. Rish wrote in an email that, “ALL the Demerol, as far as I know, was given on Dr. Klein’s orders.”
It should be noted that Dr. Klein was in Europe during the last three weeks of May 2009 as confirmed by his former office manager, Jason Pfeiffer, who was traveling with him. But those three weeks were never mentioned to the Murray jury. In reciting details of the many Demerol shots Jackson received, the defense lawyers cleverly skipped over those vacation weeks to concentrate on the times Klein was known to be in the office.
Interestingly, it is Klein himself who continues to feed the stream of information about the investigation against him and specifics on how he was served his subpoena. On Nov. 30 at 1:28 a.m. Klein wrote about a patient he had examined the previous day who he described as a Jewish-Mexican man from Culver City, Calif.
“After I examined his skin he presented me with a subpoena from the California Medical Board issued by Kimberly Wilson and paid me with a fraudulent credit card. For Kimberly Wilson to use such criminal and fraudulent means to serve me a subpoena is illegal and I feel she has proved herself unfit to evaluate any aspect of my medical practice or the Jackson Case.”
The Daily Beast has learned that earlier this year investigator Wilson went undercover herself, and made a new-patient appointment to see Klein so as to surreptitiously evaluate him. A source close to the office says Klein got wind of her upcoming visit and told his staff to say he wasn’t there when she arrived.
After that aborted attempt, Wilson apparently concluded that sending in a male to observe Klein’s behavior (and serve the subpoena) might work better.
Klein’s nocturnal online ramblings have taken on a sort of Wizard of Oz quality, with the doctor in the role of loudly announcing, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” But reality appears to be closing in on him.
He was forced to declare bankruptcy in January 2011, which several sources say was caused by his lavish lifestyle, including three homes, expensive artwork and first-class intercontinental travel. But Klein writes that Pfeiffer and his former accountant, Muhammad Khilji, stole his identity and $20 million, and they are to blame for his insolvency. Klein sued the pair, and after Pfeiffer and Khilji countersued, Klein wrote, mysteriously: “We now have firm evidence that (the) two....were overdosing me with Warfarin and changed my will....this is attempted homicide.” (Warfarin is a popular anticoagulant drug.)
Klein also has issued imperial-sounding Facebook taunts to the California Medical Board. He demands the immediate removal of Wilson for her “elder abuse” of him. He heckles the board for what he sees as past failures, and he concludes that his upcoming Dec.15 license hearing must “be rescheduled in light of the investigation of the attempted homicide by my two (former) employees.”
The 66-year-old Klein, who recently moved to a new Beverly Hills office, seems to have retreated into a world fueled by both hubris and paranoia. On Dec. 1, he penned a lengthy post entitled, “The California Medical Board: A Novel by Kafka,” in which he declares his suspicion that his bankruptcy enemies, Pfeiffer and Khilji, might have murdered another former employee named Bruce who died of a drug overdose. Klein concluded with a challenge to the board. “If you are truly concerned with * ability to practice I suggest you discuss it with my physicians who will assure you I am both physically and mentally healthier than I have ever been in the last 15 years. AWKlein.”
A medical source who asked for anonymity and had been close to Klein’s previous office said of Klein, “He seems to be unable to walk alone these days and was coming up to the office in a wheeled chair ... I do not know what he has (but) it appears that it is some kind of neuromuscular disease.”
Klein has run through a string of lawyers during his current financial woes, and each one winds up dropping him as a client. When his last attorney, Herb Weinberg, sent him a letter on Nov. 30 withdrawing as counsel, Klein inexplicably blamed it on a conspiracy involving Michael Jackson’s former concert promoters, AEG. In the letter, posted online, Weinberg strongly urges the doctor to obtain a new lawyer “as soon as possible” and reminds Klein that “Failure to appear may result in the Medical Board ... suspend[ing] your license to practice.” It is not clear if Klein has engaged a new lawyer.
In the meantime, his daily Facebook posts make it clear that his thoughts are firmly rooted in past glory days. He often recites his professional accomplishments, including an appointment as an FDA consultant he says was made possible by Sen. John Kerry. (Kerry’s Washington office flatly states, “We have no record of any recommendation/nomination Senator Kerry made on Dr. Klein’s behalf.”) And he often engages in unabashed celebrity name dropping.
Ironically, Klein often grandly declares that federal privacy laws preclude him from talking about his patients—and then he does it anyway, mentioning Elizabeth Taylor, actresses Carrie Fisher and Angelica Houston, and, most often, Michael Jackson.
“Having been the doctor to 3 presidents, 2 Popes, several real queens even the Maharaja of Baroda no one brought forth the world like Michael Jackson,” he wrote in one recent Facebook post. “Ever eat fried chicken in the kitchen with Queen Elizabeth or discuss finding good housekeepers with the Maharaja? Michael gave me those opportunities.”
No evidence could be found that Klein ever treated a president, a pope, or a real queen, but his long friendship with Jackson—and the attention it generated from law enforcement and the state Medical Board—may prove to be Arnold Klein’s professional undoing.