Medical Billing Company Owner Sentenced to Prison for Health Care Fraud
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The owner of a medical and dental billing company was sentenced in U.S. District Court today for her role in committing more than $2 million in health care fraud.
Cindy Dahdah, 61, of Beavercreek, was sentenced to 60 months in prison.
Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, Todd A. Wickerham, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division, and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced the sentence imposed today by Chief U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr.
According to court documents and testimony, Dahdah and her late husband, Dr. Salim Dahdah, conspired to commit health care fraud from 2007 until 2015.
The defendants provided medically unnecessary medical tests and procedures – including nuclear stress tests and invasive cardiac procedures – exposing patients to the risk of serious physical harm.
Cindy Dahdah pleaded guilty in October 2018 to conspiracy to commit and committing health care fraud and making false statements related to health care matters.
Salim Dahdah was a licensed cardiologist and owner of Ohio Institute of Cardiac Care (OICC) in Springfield, Ohio. The practice was originally incorporated in 1986 and eventually used the name Advanced Cardiology Associates, Inc. Cindy Dahdah incorporated ACCU-BIL Management, Inc., a privately held medical and dental billing company established in 2001 in Beavercreek. The couple also owned a primary care practice located in the same building as the cardiology practice.
OICC focused on treating patients who suffered from cardiac related illnesses, including coronary artery disease. Most of the practice’s patients were elderly and of lower socio-economic class.
As part of their conspiracy, the couple created aggressive medical protocols for cardiac related tests and procedures that they required OICC and ACCU-BIL staff to follow regardless of the medical necessity of the procedures.
The Dahdahs would name a patient’s last seen physician as a referring physician for invasive and unnecessary procedures, even though the last physician never ordered the procedures. In order to ensure their protocols were strictly followed, Cindy Dahdah would often reprimand, humiliate or threaten to terminate employees who refused to schedule the medical tests.
Cindy Dahdah also threatened to terminate primary care patients who refused to be treated by a cardiologist at OICC.
In order to increase revenue, Salim Dahdah intentionally misinterpreted cardiac tests, including heart catheterizations, to justify risky procedures like the insertion of heart defibrillators when they were medically unnecessary.
For example, Salim Dahdah told a patient in his/her thirties that (s)he needed a heart surgery or (s)he would die. The patient underwent the surgery in 2013 in order for Dahdah to implant an AICD (an implantable defibrillator). Later, the patient sought the services of another cardiologist and determined the AICD had been unnecessary, and had to undergo a second risky heart surgery to have it removed.
As a result of the health care fraud scheme, the defendants caused more than 2,000 fraudulent claims to be submitted to Medicare, Ohio Medicaid and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield totaling approximately $2 million.
“The Dahdahs subjected patients to unnecessary nuclear stress tests and invasive cardiac procedures in order to make a quick buck off Medicare and Medicaid,” said U.S. Attorney Glassman. “What an unconscionable business model. The defendant’s prison term is well deserved.”
“The human cost of this couple’s crimes far outweighs the financial cost,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “These patients believed their life-altering treatments were medically necessary, but it was all a ploy aimed at squeezing more money out of the state. Nothing – not even this sentence – can erase the anguish inflicted upon this couple’s victims.”
The couple was indicted by a federal grand jury in July 2017. Salim Dahdah also pleaded guilty in October 2018 to the same crimes as Cindy Dahdah. He died prior to being sentenced.
U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the cooperative investigation by HHS-OIG, the FBI and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, as well as Assistant United States Attorneys Kenneth F. Affeldt and Maritsa A. Flaherty, who are representing the United States in this case.
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