By the Way

It broke 'my heart': Dr. Albert Diaz's wife filed for divorce. Here's why

Imagine my surprise when I walked into the federal courtroom and saw Kay Diaz seated on the front row for her husband's sentencing hearing.

I had reported only a couple of hours earlier that she had filed for divorce from Albert Diaz, a Coast doctor in a world of hurt after a jury convicted him March 2 on 16 counts of health care fraud. She filed the divorce papers May 16.

She started crying the minute her 78-year-old husband hobbled into the courtroom, his hands and ankles shackled from a chain around his waist.

An attorney pulled Diaz's chair out. His first weak words, as he sat, wearing a prison jumpsuit and sparkling new white sneakers: "Thank you."

Then he blew his wife a kiss, or tried as best as the chains allowed. She blew a kiss back and continued weeping. Diaz's children from his first marriage sat on the front row behind the defense table, where their father sat.

Kay Diaz was seated on the first row behind the prosecution table, where I found an empty spot a couple of seats away. The courtroom filled.

I have covered many high-profile cases in federal court. And I can tell you the judges are almost without exception extremely intelligent. U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett, the presiding judge in the Diaz case, is no exception.

The judges of the U.S. Southern District also are pretty much no-nonsense types. Again, Starrett is no exception. He walked into court on time and got right down to business.

Stern-faced, he wanted to find out why the financial statements for Albert Diaz's pre-sentence report had not been completed. Judges use the report to set sentences and, when there is fraud, as there was in this case, restitution.

There was the matter of the $2.3 million that the health care fraud conspiracy cost TRICARE, the government insurance program, and another $1 million or so that it cost private insurance companies.

Kay Diaz02.jpg
Kay Diaz, right, leaves the federal courthouse in Gulfport after a hearing in March 2018 to determine if her husband, Dr. Albert Diaz, could be released from jail before he was sentenced. The request was rejected. Special to the Sun Herald

Diaz's attorney, John Colette, informed the judge that his client has been unable to pull together any financial records because he has been in jail. He said the divorce papers were served on Diaz on Monday, and communication between him and his wife had "broken down."

He said Diaz's son, plastic surgeon Michael Diaz, has his father's financial power of attorney.

Uh-oh, I thought. Sure enough, Starrett ordered Kay and Michael Diaz to the speaker's podium, where Albert Diaz would later in the hearing lament to the judge that he is a broken man.

Kay Diaz said she has her husband's personal banking and property records at their house in Ocean Springs.

His office and business are closed, his medical license revoked. Michael Diaz told the judge, "I have disclosed all information that I'm aware of."

Starrett said the financial-loss claims in the case are "substantial." He ordered Kay and Michael Diaz to produce various categories of financial records, and he gave them 10 days to do it. Starrett will set restitution after he reviews those records.

Kay Diaz was still crying during a break in the hall, where she told a friend that she had filed for divorce to protect her financial assets.

"I love my husband and this has broken my heart," she said.

Someone walked by and said something mean to her.

She didn't return to the courtroom after the break to see her husband sentenced.