Louisiana cardiologist convicted of 51 counts of healthcare fraud

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A jury in U.S. District Court in Lafayette has found Louisianan cardiologist Mehmood M. Patel guilty on 51 of 91 counts of healthcare fraud, which stemmed from allegations he billed government and private insurers for unnecessary heart procedures.

After six days of deliberation for a three-month trial that began Oct. 1, 2008, U.S. District Judge Tucker Melancon denied the government’s motion for detention before sentencing, but increased Patel’s release bond obligation to $500,000.

After the hospitals suspended the defendant’s privileges on Dec. 31, the Louisiana State Medical Board restricted Patel’s license to practice interventional cardiology, leaving him the ability to practice internal medicine pending the results of the criminal trial. A date for sentencing is expected to be set soon.

U.S. Attorney Donald Washington said that if Patel was released but not allowed to practice medicine in this country it would give him an even greater motive to flee to another country where he could.

Patel was indicted in February 2006 based on a complaint made to Health and Human Services Department that the defendant was placing stents in people who did not need them.

Testimony at trial revealed that Patel, who has been practicing interventional cardiology in Lafayette  and surrounding areas for more than 25 years, was falsifying patient symptoms in medical records, falsifying findings on medical tests and performing unnecessary coronary procedures such as deploying angioplasty balloons and stents.

From 1999-2003, Patel was the top biller in cardiology services in the state of Louisiana. During the approximately three-year period covered by the indictment, Patel billed Medicare and private insurance companies more than $3 million, of which he received approximately $550,000 from this scheme. The indicted charges included less than $90,000 of the amount received by the defendant.
 “It is reprehensible to think that a medial professional would put patients at significant risk and conduct medically unnecessary procedures simply to fill their personal coffers,” said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s New Orleans Division David Welker.

Patel faces a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, a fine not more than $250,000 and a term of not more than three years of supervised release following confinement.