Jury Convicts Local Doctor in $13 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
HOUSTON – The final defendant charged in a $13 million Medicare and Medicaid health care fraud case has been found guilty on all eight counts as charged, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. A federal jury convicted Dr. Faiz Ahmed, 64, of Houston, today following a six-day trial and approximately five hours of deliberations.
Ahmed and eight co-defendants engaged in a conspiracy to falsely bill Medicare and Medicaid for medically unnecessary diagnostic tests. At trial, the jury heard that Ahmed agreed to approve the testing and allowed his physician number to be used in the Medicare billing process to support the tests.
The lead defendant in the case - Mkrtich “Mike” Yepremian, 59, of Houston, paid marketers to bring patients to the clinics. He also, among others, paid the patients to submit to the tests. He pleaded guilty March 4, 2016, to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and paying kickbacks to marketers of Medicare and Medicaid patients.
Seven others have also pleaded guilty for their respective roles - Bompa Mbokoso Mompiere, 57, Michael Wayne Wilson, 47, Jermaine Doleman, 39, Harding Dudley Ross, 62, Eric Johnson, 62, Ann Marie Rocha, 49, and Eddie Wayne Taylor, 57, all of Houston. These defendants and Yepremian are set for sentencing in April 2017.
Yepremian ran several false clinics in Houston and Conroe. He paid marketers, including Wilson, Doleman, Johnson and Taylor, to bring patients to the clinics for a battery of diagnostic tests and blood work, regardless of medical need. Yepremian paid the marketers approximately $100 for each patient brought to his clinics. In turn, the marketers paid the patients approximately $50 each.
Ahmed approved the medically unnecessary diagnostic testing. He ordered testing for approximately 400 patients, 80 percent of which included an EKG and PFT (series of breathing tests). Ahmed was not even their regular treating physician. The jury heard that no one was referred to these clinics, there was no appointment book, they did not collect any copays and that the patients usually arrived all at the same time along with marketers.
The jury heard from some of the paid patients who testified they were paid to submit to the testing and knew it was wrong. The jury also heard testimony from the office manager – Rocha – and other co-conspirators about the overall scheme. The jury also saw video and heard phone calls, during which Ahmed had agreed to the scheme.
As a result of the overall conspiracy, Medicare and Medicaid were billed approximately $13 million and paid out approximately $9 million in false claims.
The defense attempted to convince the jury that Ahmed did not order unnecessary tests and said he had no idea the patients were paid. He argued that someone else must have added the tests and billed them to Medicare. The jury did not believe his claims and found him guilty for the underlying conspiracy and for committing health care fraud.
U.S. District Judge Gray Miller presided over the trial and has set sentencing for April 6, 2017. At that time, Ahmed faces up to 10 years imprisonment and a possible $250,000 fine on all eight counts of conviction. Previously released on bond, Ahmed was permitted to remain on bond pending his sentencing hearing.
The Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General (Office of Investigations) and the FBI conducted the investigation. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Bradley and Trial Attorney Jason Knutson are prosecuting the case.