In November 2014, a Michigan spine surgeon was federally indicted for alleged Medicare fraud and other criminal charges arising out of an alleged health care fraud scheme in which he performed lumbar spinal surgeries on patients and billed Medicare and other health insurers, including Medicaid and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan, for aspects of the procedures that he did not perform.
The indictment alleges that the spine surgeon did not implant medical devices in surgical patients that are typically used during lumbar spine fusion surgery yet billed Medicare and other health insurers for the devices and told his surgical patients that the devices had been implanted (he allegedly performed spine surgery on just about every patient who came to him). He allegedly billed nearly $33 million and was paid in excess of $1.8 million for the procedures.
It was only after the surgeon’s patients sought second opinions regarding their continuing pain and x-rays were taken that the patients were told that the medical devices had not been implanted in their lumbar spines by the Michigan spine surgeon. The surgeon was arrested by the FBI on November 24, 2014.
The FBI further alleges that the Michigan spine surgeon lied on his application to become a citizen of the United States (he became a naturalized U.S. citizen on May 10, 2013) by failing to disclose that he knowingly committed health care fraud, which would have made him ineligible to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
In late December 2014, a federal search warrant was unsealed in federal court alleging that the Michigan spine surgeon was laundering the proceeds of the alleged fraud scheme by depositing as much as $600,000 in his two minor children’s bank accounts. The spine surgeon remains in federal custody, facing more than ten years in federal prison, but has offered to post $2.5 million, surrender his family’s passports, and be subject to house arrest if he is released from custody pending trial. The federal government opposes his release from custody because it fears that the surgeon will flee the U.S. to his home country of Afghanistan, using the money in his children’s bank accounts (in September 2014, the spine surgeon was questioned when he attempted to board a flight leaving Atlanta, Georgia to Dubai with a ruby and 3.6-carat emerald in his luggage, telling the customs officer that he owned a company involved with mining in Afghanistan).
The Michigan spine surgeon surrendered his California medical license in July 2014, where he had been the subject of more than 24 medical malpractice lawsuits between 2009 and 2010. He became licensed to practice medicine in Michigan in March 2011.
It is a serious criminal act when people obtain money that they are not entitled to by committing fraud, causing innocent victims to lose their hard-earned savings, but it is many times more evil when the fraud also affects their health and their physical and mental well-being.
If you or a family member may be the victim of heath care fraud, you should promptly consult with a medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your health care fraud claim for you and represent you in a case seeking compensation and recovery for your losses due to health care fraud, if appropriate.
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