On April 1, as dusk settled on Bal Harbour, Dr. David Goroway parked his white Toyota Tundra on Collins Avenue. Only a few years ago, when he lived with his wife, a former model, in a mansion in Southwest Ranches, a trip to Bal Harbour might have meant a day of shopping or a night on the town. Back then, he was a dashing young chiropractor who had earned millions helping his colleagues wring extra bucks out of insurance carriers. But his businesses gradually failed. His marriage imploded. And he found himself mired in a sweeping lawsuit filed by insurance giant State Farm. According to police, Goroway arrived in Bal Harbour on the night in question with a very different agenda: to buy half a kilo of cocaine. He had come, more specifically, to Haulover Park, to the parking lot that borders the Intracoastal Waterway. Goroway's contact asked to see the money, and Goroway showed him 90 $100 bills.
Goroway's hair was thick, short, and jet-black. He wore designer jeans with a white-and-blue long-sleeved shirt. He was 43 but looked more like an undergrad with rich parents as he waited by his truck. The other man opened the trunk of his car and returned with a half-kilo of cocaine, which he allegedly handed to Goroway. Goroway climbed back into his pickup and drove south on Collins, slowing as he approached a red light. He was waiting to make a U-turn that would bring him north, in the direction of his Hollywood home, when he heard a sound behind him. It came from an unmarked police cruiser.
No one but Goroway knows what flashed through his mind in the moments that followed. Maybe he was in a state of disbelief. Maybe he went into an adrenaline-fueled panic. Or maybe, in those moments, as two Bal Harbour cops in SWAT gear approached his truck, guns raised, David Goroway simply decided he would rather die on that spot than find out what would happen next.
All that's known for sure about those next few seconds is that they produced three gunshots — and a whole lot of blood.
Goroway detailed much of his life story in a wide-ranging 2005 deposition for the State Farm lawsuit. He was born in East Brunswick, a New Jersey city of about 50,000 that today serves as a bedroom community for those who make the hourlong commute to Manhattan. Goroway's mother, Betty, worked as a nurse. After she divorced his father, that nurse's salary was the family's primary income. Goroway and his four siblings weren't poor, but in a city where today the median income is about $90,000, they ranked at the low end of the working class.
Goroway was ambitious if unfocused. While his friends wanted to buy a Camaro Z28, Goroway dreamed of a Corvette. He just had to figure out exactly how to make his fortune. He dreamed of a career in acting, but in his success-minded Jewish family, that didn't sound practical. Better to channel his talents into law or medicine.
A doctor's work — orthopedic surgery, maybe — interested Goroway, but medical school held little appeal in the months after he graduated high school. His passion was playing middle linebacker. They didn't have a team at his first school, Middlesex County College in nearby Edison. He then transferred after a semester to East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, where he hoped to walk onto the team.
While lifting weights, Goroway injured his back. Before Goroway went in for surgery, he decided to visit a chiropractor. The treatment worked, and Goroway — who had returned to his hometown to attend Rutgers University — decided he'd make chiropractic his career.
Considered a form of alternative health care, chiropractic focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system that cause pain in the joints, back, and neck, treating them through an array of physical adjustments to the spinal column — never through prescription drugs.
Goroway was 23 when he enrolled at Life Chiropractic College, an alternative-health school in Atlanta. He roomed with a swarthy, mischievous fellow named Markell Boulis. "I was a young, crazy, skirt-chasing, going-out-at-night kind of guy — and so was he," Goroway noted in his deposition. "He was fun, and he was charismatic and charming, and so we were friends." On nights when he wasn't partying with Boulis, Goroway was tending bar or working as a bouncer to pay his tuition.
In 1991, he graduated with a degree as a doctor of chiropractic. He packed his life's possessions into a U-Haul and drove south. Goroway didn't know a soul in Florida. "I liked the sun, and I didn't like New Jersey weather," he said.
As he neared Miami, Goroway left the freeway and went cruising on the side streets for chiropractic clinics. Finding one, he'd walk into the office and offer his services as an intern. The first to accept was the South Florida Center of Chiropractic Medicine on East Atlantic Boulevard in Pompano Beach. Goroway would be paid $150 a week.
Eventually, the apprentice would be entrusted with the majority of the clinic's chiropractic work. Goroway treated some 180 patients a week. Because many patients visit a chiropractor regularly for an adjustment, which may take only five minutes, those clinics can churn through a much larger caseload than traditional medical clinics.
During that first year in the field, Goroway and a partner opened a clinic in Hollywood, at NW 72nd Avenue and Taft. For his down payment on the building, Goroway got $25,000 from his mother. They called it Flamingo Chiropractic.
Six months after this venture, Goroway swooped back to gobble up the Pompano Beach clinic. In 1992, his first year as a practicing chiropractor, he already had two offices, where, according to his own estimates, he treated more than 350 patients per week. Goroway estimated he made $200,000 that year.
In his deposition, Goroway credited his rapid expansion to his work ethic and clinical skill. But his talents as a salesman no doubt helped too. According to critics of chiropractic, most minor back pain resolves itself within a few weeks even if untreated. The key for a chiropractor is to not only convince the patient that he owes his progress to chiropractic adjustments but that he will need to make regular visits to keep the condition from returning. Goroway must have been adept at this part of the job.
Despite his booming practice, Goroway grew frustrated with his patients. In his deposition, he estimated that 30 percent of his clientele had insurance "and the rest was — excuse the expression — crap. We didn't make money on them, you know? They were Medicare, and Medicare doesn't pay garbage."
His initial solution was to open more offices. In 1994, Goroway partnered with another chiropractor in an office in Coral Gables. The following year, he opened another office, this one in Deerfield Beach. And in 1996, he opened yet another in that city. All this came in addition to another job he'd assumed, as medical director for a Fort Lauderdale spa. Goroway screened patients and referred them to the spa's staff of chiropractors, massage therapists, and physicians.
By that year, he estimated his annual income to be around $400,000. Goroway had married a former model named Patricia, with whom he'd had two children. They lived in a 10,000-square-foot mansion in Southwest Ranches. Goroway drove a burgundy 1993 Corvette. At 30, the American dream had arrived early.
But somehow, it didn't feel like success to Goroway. His daily regimen — up at 5 a.m., in the gym by 6, at work by 8, and home at 8 p.m. — left little time to bask in the good life. Even when Goroway found time to take vacations, he had trouble forgetting about work. Once, while on a Cancun golf course with his brother, Goroway admitted that the pressure of maintaining the clinics had pushed him to the brink of a nervous breakdown. His brother suggested he walk away from his work entirely.
Instead, Goroway redirected his ambitions. "I was bored in clinic," he would say later. "Clinic was not mentally stimulating to me. I wanted to play bigger games in business, do bigger things."
Specifically, he began shifting his focus from acquiring more patients to earning more money per patient. This plan assumed a more concrete shape during a 1998 reunion with Markell Boulis and another college chum, Brad Goldstein. Goldstein had used his degree to launch a firm for performing electrodiagnostic tests, which purport to help chiropractors identify their patients' conditions. The tests had fancy names — "nerve conduction velocity tests," "dermatomal evoked potential tests," and "somatosensory evoked potentials." Although some medical experts question the diagnostic worth of such tests, they offered one obvious incentive to chiropractors: They could be billed under major medical and automobile insurance providers. The tests also required trained specialists, which is why many are performed by "mobile" diagnostic teams like the ones Goldstein employed in his Boca Raton firm, Premier Medical Group.
Goroway had used these four tests with his own patients. For each one tested, the chiropractor could bill the health-care provider about $1,000. At the same time, the mobile electrodiagnostic unit could bill the provider for the cost of performing the tests and interpreting the results at a rate of $1,100 to $3,700 per order, according to Goldstein. The more patients tested, the more money for everyone.
In his deposition, Goroway recalled a fateful dinner with Goldstein and Boulis that took place at Hobo's Fish House in Coral Springs. Goldstein boasted that his company performed 200 tests a month. Goroway told him he'd "smoke that." Goldstein invited him on board, and Goroway promised that within three months, Goldstein's team would be running 300 tests a month. In exchange, Goroway wanted a percentage of the profits Goldstein collected from patients Goroway recruited. Goldstein offered 50. Goroway wanted 60. Drunk from three bottles of wine, Goroway and Goldstein arm-wrestled for the extra 10 percent. Goroway won. (Goldstein remembers the dinner but not the arm-wrestling.)
Goroway had other big ideas. For one, he suspected his fellow chiropractors were not coding their treatments in a way that made it possible to fully bill insurance carriers. Having studied the billing codes carefully during his own clinical work, Goroway felt qualified to audit other chiropractors' books. Like a collections agency, he'd get paid by helping his clients get paid.
By that time, he had already invited Boulis into a venture he called Practice Mechanix.
Goroway's old roommate had fallen on hard times and had few other options. In 1991 — the same year that Goroway followed the sunshine to Florida — Boulis was busted for orchestrating the sale of cocaine to a stripper who happened to be an undercover cop. A search of Boulis' apartment turned up 12 grams of coke. The conviction would eventually cost Boulis his license to practice chiropractic in Pennsylvania, where he'd returned since graduating.
Drug-dealing seems a strange career choice for a young chiropractor who could make a good living playing it straight. No records in Boulis' case offer a motive, but it seems likely that he hadn't quite left behind the hard partying of his college years.
His case would prove among the strangest in Atlanta history. According to an investigation by the state's attorney general, Boulis pleaded guilty to possession with intent to sell but withdrew that plea when he learned that he was to get jail time rather than probation. He was found guilty anyway, though by the time the jury delivered its verdict, Boulis had dashed from an Atlanta courthouse, a fugitive from justice. He turned himself in two weeks later and was sentenced to five years in prison, according to the attorney general's report. But Boulis struck an unorthodox deal with prosecutors whereby he wrote a $200,000 check, earmarked for the narcotics unit, in exchange for a reduced sentence of probation. The controversy that ensued prompted then-Gov. Zell Miller to order an investigation that ultimately brought about more severe penalties for Georgia's first-time drug offenders.
Goroway was well-aware of his old friend Boulis' criminal past. "He was in a lot of trouble," Goroway said in his deposition. "He was losing his license. He wasn't a very good guy, and I tried to help him out, and I gave him a job with me."
As described in Goroway's deposition, Practice Mechanix was a traveling seminar in which Goroway and his staff offered other practitioners a crash course in profit-boosting. Cutting costs was one obvious measure. But they also urged their colleagues to locate unbilled-for services and connected them with Goldstein's lucrative line of electrodiagnostic tests. Goroway was a natural; he finally had a stage upon which he could perform. It wasn't quite the acting exposure he'd dreamed of during his New Jersey boyhood, but the crowds were rapt.
At the outset of his seminars, Goroway stressed that Practice Mechanix's goal was to provide patients better treatment. But what drew chiropractors from around the country was the pledge that his methods could double or triple a clinic's revenue. After Goroway's presentation, salesmen approached chiropractors to "close" them — that is, convince them to sign a lease with Premier, Goldstein's company, which arranged for technicians to bring the diagnostic equipment to chiropractor offices and perform the tests, according to deposition testimony.
"He did well in front of people," Goldstein recalled in a recent interview by phone. "He was very charismatic, very smart — the kind of person who when you looked at him, he got through to you and made you believe what he said."
Practice Mechanix produced $800,000 in revenue in 1998, its first year. That doubled in 1999, and by 2000, revenues had passed $2 million. By the next year, Goroway reported a gross income of $2 million on his personal tax return.
The company was Goroway's creation, but it owed a debt to Dr. David Singer, a chiropractor who had long run his own seminar series. Goroway became a client of Singer's around 1991. He paid careful attention not just to the business concepts Singer preached but to Singer's delivery, his magnetic presence.
Those seminars, it turned out, had also become a kind of recruiting tool for Singer, a devotee of the Church of Scientology, the controversial self-help system maligned as a cult by critics. Boulis was enamored of Singer too and followed him into Scientology. Goroway would later note that Boulis "chipped away" at him until finally, around 1999, as he was getting Practice Mechanix off the ground, he joined the church.
By 2001, Practice Mechanix was using telemarketers and junk faxes to reach chiropractors. At its peak, Goroway claimed the company had 125 employees, a 34-seat telemarketing house in Pittsburgh, and $650,000 in operating expenses per month. Much of its success came from concepts of business organization that Goroway learned through Scientology, he would later say.
His profile was so high within the chiropractic community, Goroway noted, that Singer, who did not return calls for comment, called to invite him to join his company as a consultant, an offer he turned down. But he also attracted some unwelcome attention: A huge insurance company had noticed Practice Mechanix too, and its high-priced attorneys had Goroway in their crosshairs.
Goroway didn't know it yet, but his business was growing too fast. As more money came in, Goroway hired more salesmen and had less control over what was happening between them and company clients.
In 2001, he started receiving complaints from chiropractors who alleged that Boulis was encouraging them to pad their bills illegally. According to the deposition, he remembers telling Boulis "that I wanted to be totally good about everything we do and totally clean." Boulis, reached through his attorney, declined an interview request.
At the same time, the two friends were feuding over money — each said that the other owed him a hefty sum. Because Scientologists are barred from suing each other, they went through a mediation brokered by a church member. The mediator ruled that Goroway owed Boulis. Goroway quit the church and cut Boulis out of Practice Mechanix.
It was at this point, Goroway claims, that he became apprehensive about whether his company had dipped too far into legal gray areas. He phased out the auditing part of the business. "I got scared of the lies from the chiropractors," Goroway said in his deposition. "I think it was too easy for the chiropractors to try to conjure up services that they say they were providing and not providing."
Boulis did not go away quietly. Upon leaving Practice Mechanix, he launched a competing firm called Practice Solutions. It wasn't the only imitator. By 2003, Goroway says the market was "saturated" with companies like his. Attendance at his seminars plunged, as did his company's sales. His overhead was still high, though, and those costs quickly devoured the profits.
Goroway had not given himself a fallback position. In 1998, he had abandoned four of the five clinics in which he had a stake. The one remaining clinic in Hollywood, the former Flamingo Chiropractic, which had since become United Care Medical Associates, had suffered from neglect in the years since Goroway embarked on his seminar blitz. In June 2003, he closed the office. On the same day, he was served with a lawsuit by State Farm Insurance.
The nation's largest auto insurer accused Goroway, Goldstein, and their business entities of being part of a "racketeering" scheme through which they encouraged their chiropractor clients to order tests of dubious medical value purely for the sake of collecting from insurers.
The suit alleged that the group submitted 33,000 reports to insurance providers and enrolled nearly 3,000 chiropractors nationwide. The cost to the insurance industry, State Farm attorneys estimated, was in the tens of millions. (Ross Silverman, an attorney who handled the case for State Farm, says company policy bars him from speaking about it.) Goroway and Goldstein denied the allegations and initially began a defense of the suit.
"They went after us because we were one of the largest," Goldstein says. "There were hundreds that did what we did, but not to the degree that we did it." He defended the integrity of the tests and said that chiropractor clients were required to sign forms in which they vouched for the necessity of a patient's receiving the test. The real issue, Goldstein suspects, is that mobile diagnostic units were emerging as a more convenient alternative to neurology clinics.
Thomas Drzemala, a chiropractor who had been hired to be a salesman for Practice Mechanix, gave an affidavit for the State Farm case in which he described how Goroway stressed that the "real money" is in electrodiagnostic testing. "He directed us to tell the chiropractors they should order the [electrodiagnostic] tests for every patient at their practice because every subluxation" — the term for spinal misalignment — "had a neurological component which could be evaluated," Drzemala stated. "I did not agree with this because, based upon my education and experience, nerve conduction studies have limited diagnostic value."
In Drzemala's view, the chiropractors themselves saw little value in the tests beyond the income they generated. "Because of their lack of understanding regarding the tests, I seriously doubt whether the chiropractors ever factored the interpretations of the tests into any patient's treatment plan," Drzemala asserted in his affidavit.
Shortly after Drzemala left Practice Mechanix in late 2001, he filed a report with the Florida Insurance Fraud Bureau alleging that "Practice Mechanix was improperly using financial incentives to encourage chiropractors to order unnecessary electrodiagnostic and spinal ultrasound testing and to submit new bills for services and procedures that may or may not have been performed."
Although Goroway couldn't have known it, he is fortunate that these allegations never appeared in a criminal indictment. They did for his former friend and salesman, Boulis, who was indicted in 2006 for health-care fraud and income tax evasion in connection with Boulis' Practice Solutions. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette billed it as "one of the largest health insurance fraud cases in the United States" — and Boulis' company was smaller than Goroway's had been.
Even before that case was filed, Boulis had been arrested in Cleveland in June 2003 after buying three rocks of crack cocaine — a violation of his probation from the drug arrest in Georgia.
Goroway's legal bills were growing too. His wife, Patricia, filed for divorce in 2004.
Patricia Goroway, reached by phone, said of her ex-husband: "I can't comment on anything about him. I really don't know anything about him."
In January 2005, Goroway settled his part of the State Farm suit and was dismissed from the case. By the time he sat for an October 2005 deposition in the same case, there was little sign of the dashing entrepreneur who made millions on the seminar circuit. Asked whether he was the top salesman at Practice Mechanix, Goroway said: "I was it. I was the game. I mean, you know, I'm not looking myself today. I'm very tired right now, and I'm — I've been through a lot. OK? Since your case and a lot of other things. I lost my dad, my stepdad, my businesses, everything, in a year and a half's time. Everything in my life is gone. I'm at my lowest point in my whole life. I was at my highest point for a while there."
A gag order bars both sides of that case from discussing the settlement amounts, but Goroway claims he paid "pennies on the dollar," mostly because only a small percentage of the clients he referred to Goldstein had their tests paid for by the auto insurance carriers on whose behalf State Farm was suing.
Goldstein also settled his part of the State Farm suit before trial, though he still maintains: "We did nothing wrong. We fought the good fight, but when you go against a company like that, you can only go so far."
Between his 2005 deposition and the incident in Bal Harbour on April 1, 2008, there is a long, mysterious gap in Goroway's life story. He'd grown "bored" by clinical work. His seminar program had hit the skids. And he'd suffered a string of personal setbacks. But that still doesn't explain how Goroway found himself driving away from Haulover Park with a half-kilo of freshly purchased cocaine.
On this matter, the police report in his case is maddeningly vague. It contains no background information about how Bal Harbour narcotics officers set up the deal — whether Goroway was its target or whether he was a middleman who got caught with the stash. In a brief interview with a Bal Harbour Police Department spokesman, Capt. Greg Roy refused to offer clues: "We can't comment on that because it's part of a pending investigation."
The report is especially vague when it comes to the physical details of the encounter between Goroway and police. It states only that Goroway was pulled over on Collins Avenue and that as the cops approached his SUV from either side, he "refused several verbal commands to exit his vehicle." For this reason, the report says, "Det. [Paul] Eppler then opened the passenger door of the vehicle, at which time Sgt. Paul Deitado observed what appeared to be a brief struggle between the defendant and Det. Eppler. During this time Sgt. Deitado heard three gun shots fired."
In a brief interview, Roy said Eppler was carrying an MP5 submachine gun. The first bullet went crashing through the ulna bone in Goroway's wrist, destroying his ulnar nerve, for flexing one's hand. The location of the entry wound, on the inside of the right arm, suggests the possibility that Goroway grabbed the officer's gun just before it fired. Roy refused to discuss exactly what Goroway did to precipitate the "brief struggle" in the SUV.
The second bullet landed just above Goroway's knee. A third shot hit the SUV.
Goroway was covered in blood. A helicopter landed nearby, swooping him away to the University of Miami's Ryder Trauma Center just before the news helicopters arrived. Goroway nearly bled to death.
In the days to come, Goroway's mug shot would run on TV news programs and in the Miami Herald. Sentencing guidelines dictate a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years for buying half a kilo of cocaine, a quantity that suggests an intention to deal. Goroway entered a plea of not guilty. His trial is set for next month.
In the meantime, Goroway has kept a low profile. The phone numbers that come up on a directory search of his name are all disconnected. So is the phone number Goroway gave to police after his April 1 arrest. He no longer lives in the same palatial Southwest Ranches home; it sold last year for $3.2 million to Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem. Nor can Goroway be found at the Ocean Boulevard condo in Pompano Beach where he moved shortly after his divorce.
A property records search places him in a small but lushly landscaped bungalow in a neighborhood near downtown Hollywood. "Are you a reporter he wants to talk to?" asked a woman's voice through the closed door. The woman is Diana Suissa, Goroway's fiancée. She said he was not home. She was willing to give an email address where he could be contacted.
Goroway responded to a New Times email, agreeing to meet for an interview so long as it was understood that he would not speak about anything relating to his criminal case.
A few days later, Goroway, black hair freshly shorn and spiked after a trip to his hairdresser, arrives early to an interview at a Starbucks in downtown Fort Lauderdale. On this rain-soaked Thursday in mid-June, he's dressed in designer jeans and a long-sleeved shirt — just like the day he was arrested — and he's still driving the same white Toyota Tundra in which he was shot. His right hand is stiff. A handshake makes him wince.
As Goroway sits at a table, it's apparent why — there's a cast over his right wrist, from beneath which a grotesque scar can be seen. Staples, he notes, are all that hold the muscles and ligaments together. The scar is horizontal, and the mangled flesh makes it appear more like a bad burn than a bullet wound. He gestures to a place above the knee where there's a distinct lump: the second bullet. "They're cutting it out tomorrow," Goroway says.
In the three years since he gave his deposition, Goroway says he has worked mostly as a consultant to those hoping to launch a business akin to Practice Mechanix. Last year, Goroway says, he planned a return to clinical work. But in November, he was rear-ended, leaving him with herniated discs in his neck and lower back. He'd have to heal before getting back into practice. Then came the drug bust.
With his case pending, Goroway cannot discuss his arrest or any of the events that led up to it. He'll say only that "the truth will come out" at trial, which has been set for mid-August. Given that his friend and former colleague Boulis had dabbled with drugs, it's reasonable to wonder whether Goroway also had shady dealings away from his practice. But he denies it, insisting he doesn't even drink, much less do drugs. "I don't lead a double life," he stresses.
Other friends and colleagues offer no explanation. "I've been out with him as a friend to dinners and concerts, and there was no sign of this kind of thing," says Dr. Leonard Badalamente, Goroway's former partner in a Deerfield Beach clinic. "I think he was recently divorced, a business went down, and maybe he met the wrong kind of people."
The arrest was, to Goldstein, "a complete shock to everyone who knew [Goroway] personally and professionally."
When the subject changes to his career as a chiropractor, Goroway leans back in his chair and rubs his chin thoughtfully. "Did I want to make millions?" he asks, then pauses. "Yes," he says finally. "But money is not a driver for me." He adds, "I'm a great idea person, and I want to help people."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
As he describes his career, it's hard not to see flashes of the persuasive pitchman he once was. "I taught principles," he exclaims. "How to get paid by running sound systems of health care. Nobody had done that before!" Goroway talks about giving free clinical care to a local football team and teaching life-saving courses to firefighters. Handsome, animated, and affable, Goroway adds just enough self-deprecating humor to keep from appearing slick.
Strangely, the former millionaire, who sounded positively disconsolate during his 2005 deposition, sounds hopeful on this day, despite the prospect of a lengthy stay in prison. "I could have been dead," he explains. "I could have been paralyzed. I'm very, very thankful to be alive, very sound in the fact that things will work out from this incident, however it comes about. I was very, very distraught from a lot of losses in 2003 — and this incident, as terrible as it is, gave me a new perspective on life. I'm actually happy, as bizarre as that may sound."
In fact, Goroway says he still dreams of giving acting a whirl. His role as a seminar leader at Practice Mechanix was something of a performance: "I enjoy public speaking, the platform, being able to move audiences emotionally and spiritually."
But his true ambition at this point is much more humble, and it's one he sets out in a melancholy tone, with a chastened expression on his face. "I'd prefer to practice where I can put a box on the wall and tell people to drop a few bucks in it, whatever they can afford," he says earnestly. "I would work three days a week and the other four, just surf and fish."