Many people in Pacific Palisades were patients of ophthalmologist Dr. Mark Sawusch.
One day in 2016, without warning, he seemed to disappear from his offices in the medical building across from Gelson’s, at Via de la Paz and Antioch.
It was only when an April 2023 story came out in the Los Angeles Times (“The Actor, the hairstylist and the Eye Surgeon: Drugs and Death in a Malibu Beach House”), did people learn what had happed to their doctor.
Sawusch, who grew up in Florida, followed in his father’s footsteps, studying medicine at the University of Chicago and doing his residency at Johns Hopkins, before opening a practice in Pacific Palisades.
Twice divorced, he lived in a home, just west of Topanga Canyon, on Pacific Coast Highway.
He was also described as a skilled investor, who turned his success into a vast fortune worth tens of millions of dollars, prosecutors have said.
Sawusch also started having mental issues. Court papers show he was admitted to psychiatric facilities at least eight times between 2016 and 2017. He also had run-ins with law enforcement for petty crime.
A suicide attempt in 2017 led to his admission at the Del Amo psychiatric hospital in Torrance.
Then, two weeks later his life would take another tragedy: he would meet Anthony Flores and Anna Moore at a Venice ice cream parlor.
Moore, an actress with a bachelor’s degree in theater and politics from New York University, who studied at the London Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, met her partner Flores in 2012 at a potluck in Santa Monica. He had started a window-washing business when he graduated from Clovis High School, and the two became partners.
Flores also got a cosmetology license, working on Melrose, and adopted Anton David as his artistic name.
Within weeks of meeting Sawusch, the two had moved into his home, rent-free. They pretended to be his friend.
When Sawusch suffered a severe mental breakdown in September 2107, which led to his arrest and jailing, Flores convinced the doctor to give him powers of attorney.
The L.A. Times reported that “Flores called Patsy Sawusch, 83, and told her that her son had disappeared. Flores offered to search for him if she would pay him. Patsy, who lives in Florida, agreed to send Flores $1,000.
“Flores wrote Patsy a letter asking for $4,688 more, saying he and Moore had bought her son food, got his piano fixed, cleaned his house and visited him at the Torrance hospital. Patsy mailed the check to Flores.
“But she told her son in an email that Flores was just pretending to be his friend and only helping because she was paying him. ‘Stop the money and he will be gone,’ she wrote.
For the next six months, Flores and Moore diverted the doctor’s funds to their own bank account. The two were accused of intentionally isolated him from his family—his mother and sister Carole.
Flores and Moore are said to have given Sawusch LSD.
According to City News Services October 12 story (“Couple Pleads Guilty in $2.7 Million Fraud Scheme Targeting Malibu Ophthalmologist’s Estate”), “While Sawusch was under the influence of LSD, Flores changed the two- step authentication feature on the doctor’s $60 million online brokerage account after previously changing the phone number listed on the account from Sawusch’s phone number to his own.
“Four days before Sawusch’s death and while he was still under the influence of the LSD, Flores allegedly initiated two $1 million wires from the physician’s brokerage account to accounts that Flores controlled, including Flores’ personal bank account, according to the DOJ.”
Sawusch, 57, died in May 2018. The LA County coroner found it was an accidental death caused by ketamine and alcohol intoxication. The pathologist who did an autopsy found that ketamine and alcohol ‘did not significantly contribute to the immediate cause of death’ and that Sawusch died as a result of two heart conditions: dilated cardiomyopathy and a congenitally narrow coronary artery.
It was only later that his family learned of his wealth. His mom and sister Carole thought he might have been bankrupt because of his mental issues. “Three months after he died, Patsy was stunned to receive a letter from his investment brokerage revealing the doctor had more than $60 million,” according to CNS.
In November 2018, Patsy and Carole got a court order freezing Flores and Moore’s assets and appointing a receiver to track down any of Sawusch’s money the couple had taken.
A federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted the couple in February 2023, on charges of wire and mail fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and aggravated identity theft.
Flores, 47, who accused of defrauding Sawusch of more than $2.7 million before the doctor’s death, then attempting to siphon an additional amount exceeding $20 million from the estate, initially pled not guilty.
Fores is now expected to enter an October 19 plea to nine charges including conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to engage in money laundering, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Flores’ co-defendant Moore, 39, previously pleaded guilty to seven of the indictment’s 12 charges. The yoga instructor/actress, who last lived in Monterrey, Mexico, is scheduled to be sentenced in January.
The couple have broken up.
(Editor’s note: Dr. Sawusch was my ophthalmologist. He was professional and went out of his way to figure out, why this editor’s insurance could only have either glasses or contacts, but not both. He was a nice man and I’m sorry these grifters took advantage of him and his mental illness was never dealt with.)