Westlake cardiologist convicted of overbilling for $7 million worth of unnecessary procedures
A Westlake cardiologist was convicted of performing unnecessary catheterizations, tests, stent insertions and causing unnecessary coronary artery bypass surgeries as part of a scheme to overbill Medicare and other insurers by $7.2 million, law enforcement officials said.
Dr. Harold Persaud, 56, was convicted of one count of health care fraud, 13 counts of making false statements and one count of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from criminal activity. He was acquitted on one count of making a false statement.
“The evidence presented at this trial was troubling,” said U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach. “Inflating Medicare billings alone would be bad enough. Falsifying cardiac care records, making an unnecessary referral for open heart surgery and performing needless and sometimes invasive heart tests and procedures is inconsistent with not only federal law but a doctor’s basic duty to his patients.”
“This doctor violated the sacred trust between doctor and patient by ordering unnecessary tests, procedures and surgeries to line his pockets,” said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland Office. “He ripped off taxpayers and put patients’ lives at risk.”
“Medical providers have a duty and obligation to provide only those services that are medically necessary and are in the best interests of the patients under their care,” said Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General – Chicago Region. “This conduct shows a disregard for patient needs in exchange for financial gain at taxpayer expense. The OIG will continue to work with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners to identify fraudulent health care schemes and hold individuals accountable for their actions.”
Persaud had a private medical practice at 29099 Health Campus Drive in Westlake and had hospital privileges at Fairview Hospital, St. John’s Medical Center and Southwest General Hospital, according to court documents and trial testimony.
Persaud devised a scheme to defraud and obtain money from Medicare and other insurers. The scheme took place between Feb. 16, 2006, through June 28, 2012. According to according to court documents and trial testimony, his activities in furtherance of the scheme included:
- Persaud selected the billing code for each customer submitted to Medicare and private insurers, and used codes that reflected a service that was more costly than that which was actually performed;
- Persaud performed nuclear stress tests on patients that were not medically necessary;
- He knowingly recorded false results of patients’ nuclear stress tests to justify cardiac catheterization procedures that were not medically necessary;
- Persaud performed cardiac catheterizations on patients at the hospitals and falsely recorded the existence and extent of lesions (blockage) observed during the procedures;
- He recorded false symptoms in patient records to justify testing and procedures on patients;
- Persaud inserted cardiac stents in patients who did not have 70 percent or more blockage in the vessel that he stented and who did not have symptoms of blockage;
- He placed a stent in a stenosed artery that already had a functioning bypass, thus providing no medical benefit and increasing the risk of harm to the patient;
- He improperly referred patients for coronary artery bypass surgery when there was no medical necessity for such surgery, which benefitted Persaud by increasing the amount of follow-up testing he could perform and bill to Medicare and private insurers;
- Persaud performed medically unnecessary stent procedures, aortograms, renal angiograms and other procedures and tests.
As a result of this scheme, Persaud overbilled and caused the overbilling of Medicare and private insurers in the amount of approximately $7.2 million, of which Medicare and the private insurers paid approximately $1.5 million, according to the indictment.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael L. Collyer and Chelsea Rice following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General