Hollywood’s "dermatologist to the stars" has been caught up in the investigation of Michael Jackson’s death. But he may have some tough new questions to answer thanks to a litigious battle he launched against his former office manager and former accountant.
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Michael Jackson’s favorite doctor, celebrity dermatologist Arnold Klein, ought to be preparing to deal with the onslaught of negative publicity sure to erupt around him once the manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray gets underway. Yet he has kept his legal team busy filing a (new) bombshell pleading to augment his January 2011 bankruptcy case. In it, Klein blames several people and institutions for what he claims is a multimillion-dollar fraud that caused his financial misfortune.
Meanwhile, those in the know say Dr. Murray’s defense team is expected to tell the jury it was Dr. Klein who caused Michael Jackson’s late-in-life frail condition by prescribing repeated doses of narcotics to Jackson, specifically Demerol. They will hint darkly that it was the drug-dependent Jackson’s craving for more and stronger drugs that caused him to seek out the anesthetic Propofol and to hire the ostensibly well-meaning Dr. Murray to administer it to help him fight chronic insomnia. Defense lawyers will argue that Jackson’s death from a lethal dosage of Propofol was a tragic and inevitable accident.
Dr. Klein filed a complaint (called an “adversary proceeding”) with the bankruptcy court on June 27, 2011, blaming his former office manager Jason Pfeiffer, his former accountant Muhammad Khilji, and nearly a dozen financial institutions for what he alleges was a $10 million fraud against him. Naming them as defendants, Klein claims Pfeiffer and Khilji conspired to set up false businesses through which millions of dollars were embezzled. Klein also alleges that his banks, mortgage companies, and financial advisers should have caught the criminal behavior.
That action by Klein has now caused a legal blowback that is sure to rock his Hollywood clientele, which includes Cher, Dolly Parton, Carrie Fisher, and the late Elizabeth Taylor.
Pfeiffer has answered with a counterclaim. “I just couldn’t take it without filing a response with the court,” he told The Daily Beast. “I could not let him get away with blaming me for his outlandish lifestyle. Everyone was telling him, ‘You’ve got to cut back spending!’ But he didn’t listen and now he blames us.”
Codefendant and Certified Public Accountant Muhammad Khilji asserts a similar story of reckless spending. “I’m going to defend myself,” he told The Daily Beast. “It shouldn’t be too hard, because he’ll have to prove I took money and he knows he was running out.”
Khilji worked with Klein for about three years and said he witnessed a shocking disregard for the bottom line. According to Khilji, Dr. Klein saw his monthly office revenue drop drastically between early 2007 and 2011, in large part due to the departure of two of his top-grossing medical partners. Dr. Klein told The New York Times in 2004 that his practice brought in $20,000 a day; in his bankruptcy court filing, his gross monthly revenue is listed as $93,872.
“To say I’m a thief? He still owes me $50,000 from outstanding invoices,” Khilji said, adding that his next step is preparing a slander suit against Dr. Klein.
Pfeiffer, 38, began working for the doctor as a personal assistant in 2008 and was quickly promoted to manager of Klein’s high-profile medical office. As the doctor’s righthand man, Pfeiffer asserts he was privy to all aspects of Klein’s life, and his counterclaim lays bare his account of that life in jaw-dropping, graphic detail.
Pfeiffer depicts Dr. Klein, 66, as an obsessive sexual predator who repeatedly and sadistically took advantage of Pfeiffer’s loyalty as an employee, used Pfeiffer’s name to illegally prescribe prescription drugs (mostly sex-aid drugs like Cialis and amyl nitrate) for himself and others, and humiliated Pfeiffer by forcing his participation in Klein’s late-night, obsessive online trolling for male sex partners.
From page six of Pfeiffer’s counterclaim, which was filed Aug. 3 in bankruptcy court:
“Throughout Mr. Pfeiffer’s employment, Dr. Klein required that Mr. Pfeiffer prepare him for sexual encounters with masseurs, paid escorts and prostitutes, and others. Mr. Pfeiffer was required to prepare Dr. Klein for sex frequently as Dr. Klein generally had several sex partners each week and on occasions multiple partners daily. Klein required that Mr. Pfeiffer wash Klein’s groin, administer Klein’s Cialis, Viagra and similar prescription drugs, greet and accompany Dr. Klein’s masseurs and other sex partners when they arrived at the Los Angeles or Laguna Beach homes and as they were leaving, pay masseurs and others on Klein’s behalf.”
Page 5 contains an explicit allegation of how Dr. Klein (after insisting Pfeiffer move into his 18-room Hancock Park mansion or be fired) would corral his employee into trolling internet porn sites with him.
“Dr. Klein searched obsessively for sex partners online and otherwise. From home, his medical offices, and elsewhere, Klein usually spent hours per day online searching for sex. Once home from work, Klein typically stayed awake until 2:00 a.m. or later …. Klein required that Pfeiffer stay awake with him late into the night dictating emails Mr. Pfeiffer was required to send for Dr. Klein to potential sex partners … Pfeiffer repeatedly told Klein that he did not want to assist … that he needed to sleep. Klein responded by bellowing at Pfeiffer that this was his job, that Pfeiffer would do what he told him, and that Pfeiffer would be fired if he refused. On occasions when Pfeiffer dared to doze off in a chair while Klein was searching the internet, Dr. Klein threw things at him to wake him.”
The 28-page counterclaim is replete with allegations about humiliating tasks and situations the openly gay Pfeiffer claims he was subjected to during the course of his employment. On one occasion, Pfeiffer states, he was sent out into the night with another of Klein’s male employees to find a sex partner for his boss. From pages 7 and 8:
“After Dr. Klein had purchased his home in Palm Springs, Klein dispatched Pfeiffer and another employee into the Warm Sands Drive neighborhood to find a man with whom Klein could have sex. (They) returned with a large-bodied homeless man for Klein and a smaller homeless man for the other employee ...The event was repulsive to Pfeiffer … (He) ... locked himself alone in one of the bedrooms of Klein’s Palm Springs home in order to remove himself from ... (the) activities.”
Claims of overprescribing of drugs and prescription fraud by Dr. Klein could be the dermatologist’s professional undoing.
In a series of exclusive interviews with The Daily Beast, Pfeiffer stressed he always made it clear to Dr. Klein that he was not attracted to him and wanted only a business relationship. From page 16:
“Dr. Klein repeatedly subjected Mr. Pfeiffer to unwelcome, unwanted, offensive sexual conduct. Klein grabbed Pfeiffer’s nipples, abruptly leaned into Pfeiffer and attempted to force his tongue into Pfeiffer’s mouth; tried to pull open Pfeiffer’s shirt and pants, fell into Pfeiffer, pawed at him and attempted to kiss him. Dr. Klein told Mr. Pfeiffer they could have ‘a hot love affair.’”
Either in retaliation or out of sheer mischief, Pfeiffer claims, Dr. Klein tried to turn other employees against him. Beginning on page 13:
“In Pfeiffer’s presence, Klein told other male employees that they should urinate on Pfeiffer. ‘Let’s throw Jason in a bathtub and piss on him,’ Klein said, laughing at Pfeiffer. ‘He’ll love it.’”
As salacious in nature as much of the counterclaim allegations are, it is Pfeiffer’s claims of overprescribing of drugs and prescription fraud by Dr. Klein that could be the dermatologist’s professional undoing. According to the legal filing, some of it involved Michael Jackson. From page 8:
“Throughout 2009, Michael Jackson was a frequent patient of Klein. Several times, Klein told Pfeiffer to help Michael down to the car because Michael was too drugged up and disoriented to stand on his own. Pfeiffer told Klein many times that although Pfeiffer is not a doctor, Pfeiffer and Klein’s own nurses were worried that Michael was being “overmedicated” by Klein. Klein retorted to Pfeiffer that he knew what he was doing and that Pfeiffer should keep his mouth shut.”
The counterclaim is also very specific when discussing prescriptions that were allegedly written using Jason Pfeiffer’s name as the patient. Pfeiffer provided The Daily Beast with records from two Beverly Hills pharmacies—Mickey Fine’s and Roxsan—listing thousands of dollars of prescriptions in his name—drugs he said he never received. The documents, which date from May 2008 to September 2010, carry Klein’s name as the prescriber and are for narcotics like Percocet, prescription sleep aids like Ambien and Lunesta, and the antifungal medication Clotrimazole, used to treat jock itch and yeast infections.
Pfeiffer says he first became aware of Klein’s questionable prescription practices when he was ordered to pick up an “emergency” package and deliver it to the doctor’s home in Palm Springs. From Page 9:
“Klein opened the package in Pfeiffer’s presence and Mr. Pfeiffer discovered that the ‘medication’ was amyl nitrite—‘prescription poppers’ Klein wanted to use during sex, as Klein told Mr. Pfeiffer at the time … Mr. Pfeiffer also discovered at that time that Klein had written the prescription in Pfeiffer’s name.”
The former office manager says he repeatedly confronted Dr. Klein about using his name on prescriptions. From page 10:
“Pfeiffer told Klein he was angry and upset with what Klein had done. Pfeiffer told Klein that he would report Klein if he filled another prescription under Pfeiffer’s name. In response, Klein laughed at Pfeiffer, saying that he would simply take the position that he had prescribed the amyl nitrite for Pfeiffer’s ‘heart condition’, though Klein knew Pfeiffer had no such condition.”
The allegation that Klein misused his power to dispense drugs is mentioned several times in the court filing. On page 10, the pleading alleges that Dr. Klein admitted he had written an illegal prescription for Cialis for a “celebrity architect” who did not want his own name on record. Klein allegedly admitted he had used Pfeiffer’s name on the prescription. On page 16 there is mention of a famous (but unnamed) substance-abusing Hollywood actress who often dropped by the medical office to pick up free narcotics. According to the pleading, Klein instructed his staff to “give her 10 to 20 Percocets” each time.
When Skip Miller, Dr. Klein’s Los Angeles attorney, was asked to comment, an associate told The Daily Beast: "All of Jason Pfeiffer’s allegations are false and will be demonstrated to be baseless in court."
In September 2010, Pfeiffer walked away from his $90,000-per-year job. “I couldn’t take the abuse anymore, no matter how badly I needed a job,” he said. He claims that Dr. Klein withheld his final paycheck and the personal property Pfeiffer had moved into the Hancock Park mansion, including all his clothes and family heirlooms.
Since leaving his job, Pfeiffer has given his account of Dr. Klein’s practices to both the California Medical Board and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The celebrity doctor was already on the agencies’ radar. In the wake of Michael Jackson’s death, the DEA raided Klein’s Beverly Hills office, carting out boxes of evidence, and the agency has been comparing Klein’s narcotics scripts with triplicate copies filed with the office of the state’s attorney general. One source close to the California Medical Board tells The Daily Beast that the Board may be just weeks away from taking action against Klein.