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Press Release

Psychiatrist Pleads Guilty to Healthcare Fraud and Wire Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia
Alberto Cervantes Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Virginia Medicaid and United Healthcare While Carrying on Sexual Relationship with Patient

Abingdon, VIRGINIA – A former psychiatrist who previously worked in Lebanon, Virginia pleaded guilty last week to healthcare fraud and wire fraud, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced.

Alfredo Cervantes, 62, pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud and one count of wire fraud. As a condition of his guilty plea, Cervantes, whose medical license and DEA registration were revoked in 2015, agreed never to practice medicine again. 

“Protecting the health and safety of patients, as well as the integrity of our health-care system, is a priority of the Department of Justice,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated.   “We will continue to investigate and prosecute physicians who violate the sacred trust placed in them by their patients, the public, and health-care officials.  I am grateful for the hard work and dedication of the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Health and Human Services in bringing this doctor to justice.”

“This was a violation of the law and of the duty of care that this doctor owed to one of his patients,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Cervantes’ stole from taxpayers and his unethical behavior could have jeopardized the health and welfare of a person in his care. I appreciate all the hard work done by my Medicaid Fraud Unit, the HHS Inspector General, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to put a stop to this unlawful and unethical conduct.”

“Protecting patients from harm and the Medicare and Medicaid Programs from fraudulent billings is a top priority said Maureen R. Dixon, Special Agent in Charge for the Philadelphia Regional Office of the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  HHS-OIG will work with our fellow law enforcement partners to aggressively investigate physicians who would cause harm to our beneficiaries or steal from US Taxpayers.”

According to evidence presented at last week’s guilty plea hearing, Cervantes was employed by Mountain States Medical Group and Russell County Medical Center as a psychiatrist.  In February 2012, Cervantes began a sexual relationship with one of his patients, which continued until February 18, 2014, when Cervantes ended the relationship and the patient attempted suicide.  While that relationship was ongoing, Cervantes purchased alcohol for her and encouraged her to drink with him, despite the fact that he was prescribing her medications for which alcohol is contraindicated.  During that time, Cervantes billed United Healthcare in the amount of $1,508 for psychiatric care of that patient, and caused Virginia Medicaid to be fraudulently billed $9,313 for prescription medications he wrote for that patient, when no legitimate psychiatric care of the patient was occurring. 

Cervantes will be sentenced on January 4, 2019 at 10:30 a.m.  He faces up to 30 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines. 

This case was investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and the Virginia Office of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. 

Special Assistant United States Attorney and Virginia Assistant Attorney General Janine Myatt and Assistant United States Attorney Zachary T. Lee are prosecuting the case for the United States. 

Updated October 9, 2018

Health Care Fraud