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Psychiatrist accused of submitting false Medicare claims

Louisiana residents may not know about the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, the government agency formed in March 2007, that leads federal investigation into Medicare fraud schemes. It has charged more than 1,700 people in nine cities who have submitted fraudulent Medicare billing totaling more than $5.5 billion. One of the recent alleged schemes uncovered involved a 56-year-old Texas doctor who has been charged in a multimillion-dollar federal Medicare fraud case involving several hospital administrators. The Houston psychiatrist was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health-care fraud and four counts of health-care fraud.

According to federal investigators, the suspect allegedly submitted false claims for the treatment of mental health patients in a Houston hospital for amounts totaling $158 million. Prosecutors say the treatments were either unnecessary or were never provided by the accused. She was arrested in mid-December and made her first appearance in federal court two days later.

The maximum penalty for each count is 10 years in federal prison.

The psychiatrist was allegedly part of a scheme that began in 2005 and ended in May 2012. The hospital's administrator, assistant administrator and six other hospital employees have been indicted for their alleged parts in the scheme. Two of those indicted have already pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. The rest are awaiting trial.

Federal health care fraud involves health-care professionals defrauding government-administered health-care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid as well as insurance companies. The federal government aggressively investigates health-care fraud allegations because they cost taxpayers money.

Also among those investigating the case were agents from the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service's field office in Houston.

Louisiana citizens who face federal criminal charges should consult a legal professional who can work on the defendant's behalf. Enlisting the services of a legal professional can maximize a defendant's chances of reduced or dropped charges or acquittal if the case proceeds to trial.

Source: Chron.com, "Houston doctor charged in $158 million Medicare fraud," Mike Glenn, December 18, 2013

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