“As he sits in jail, now he will know what it is like to miss people that he loves,” McNamee said. "But he can see them again someday and we will never see her again."
McNamee and her family were in court for the sentencing. They wore t-shirts bearing a photo of their mother and the words, “In Memory of Constance Nenni 2010.” As Panos' sentence was read, McNamee was visibly shaken. Later, she said she had been expecting the judge to follow the federal government's sentencing recommendation that called for Panos to spend a minimum of seven years behind bars.
Panos, his attorneys and the attorney for Mid-Hudson Medical Group did not reply to numerous requests by ABC News to comment on the proceedings.
Panos submitted dozens of character references to the court in a bid to reduce his jail time. Most of those letters were written by friends, neighbors, former patients or priests who met Panos at church or through his volunteer work. The letters spoke of Panos' dedication to his family and the practice of medicine, as well as the hardship his family would experience should he go to prison. Notably, only one doctor, a psychiatrist who was not part of his former medical practice, submitted a supporting letter.
The federal government countered with its own memorandum stressing the bold and enduring nature of Panos’ crimes.
“Panos performed thousands of surgical procedures, and often as many as 20 or more in a single day, for which he and MHMG submitted claims in excess of $35,000,000 to health care providers,” the government sentencing memorandum read. “Panos routinely saw at least 60 patients in a single office day at MHMG, and at times saw more than 90 patients in a single office day.”
The memorandum added that once the scheme was uncovered, Panos tried to cover up his crimes by blaming them on clerical errors. Even after he was fired from his practice, he falsely claimed to prospective employers that the billing discrepancies were the result of his surgical notes being improperly transcribed by his wife and others, the memorandum said.
The memorandum also noted that Panos was rewarded handsomely for his misconduct. During the years 2007 through 2011, Panos received more than $7.5 million in compensation from his employer.
Victims May Now Get Their Day in Court
With the criminal case against Panos officially resolved, lawyers for the plaintiffs in the civil cases said they hoped they could finally move forward. Immediately after the sentencing, the Putnam County, N.Y., judge overseeing the civil cases, Lewis S. Lubell, issued an order to remove an "order of stay" that was preventing any defendants in the case -- including Panos, Mid-Hudson Medical Group and various hospitals and surgical centers where Panos performed surgery -- from directly responding to the civil actions.
JT Wisell, who, along with his legal partner, Nancy McGee, represents more than 150 civil plaintiffs, previously told ABC News the stay had been put in place so Panos could avoid self-incrimination in the criminal case. Wisell said he hoped his cases would now be able to move forward.
“The plaintiffs are hoping for closure.” he said.
However, Charles Rock, who also represents several plaintiffs in civil cases filed against Panos, said it was unclear what will happen next.
“The sentencing is a resolution of the fraud criminal issue but, as for the impact on the civil matters, we don’t know yet,” he said.
Plaintiff Debra Cole said that, while she is glad Panos has finally been sentenced, she has mixed emotions.
“Of course, I don’t think what he has admitted to in criminal court is the total truth," she said. "He has only admitted to insurance fraud as far as I know, not medical malpractice. Those are two different things. He needs to admit his full guilt."
McNamee said she is looking forward to getting answers for all of the questions she said have eluded her family in the four years since her mother's death.
“He could never have done what he did without a lot of people helping him,” she said. “Doctors, nurses, his medical group -- they made millions and no one else is paying the price. They still go on with life as normal and they are still collecting money and still thriving. My mother is gone forever.”