US court jails Indian-American; orders payment of USD 43 mn

Posted By: Pti
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Yoshita Singh

Boston, Feb 2 (PTI) An Indian-American doctor has beensentenced to 15 years in prison by a US court for committinghealth care fraud with his wife and has been ordered toforfeit over USD 43 million in cash and property gainedthrough the fraud.

Arun Sharma, 56, conspired with his wife Kiran Sharmaand committed a health care fraud over a 10-year-period inTexas, United States Attorney Jose Angel Moreno said today.

Handing down the sentence, US District Judge DavidHittner ordered Sharma to forfeit over USD 43 million,including the couple''s USD 700,000 home in Texas, numerousparcels of real property, more than USD 700,000 in cash foundduring a search of their home, over USD 800,000 in cash foundin two safe deposit boxes and a number of investment accountsfunded with the proceeds of their fraudulent scheme.

Sharma has been remanded to the custody of the USMarshals Service.

Kiran, who also has been convicted of conspiracy andhealth care fraud after pleading guilty in April 2010, isscheduled to be sentenced on February 23.

She remains in custody at the Federal Detention Centrein Houston pending sentencing.

Sharma had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracyand one count of health care fraud in April last year.

During his plea, he admitted that from January 1, 1998through June 10, 2009, he and his wife had fraudulently billedMedicare, Medicaid and various private health care providersfor medical procedures that were not performed.

The couple owned and operated multiple medical clinicsoperating under the name Allergy, Asthma, Arthritis PainCentre in Texas.

While some patients at the clinics were referred byother medical doctors, nearly half of the patients came to theclinics through word of mouth.

"Arun Sharma was known as an easy touch forprescribing the ''pain cocktail'' of hydrocodone, Xanax andSoma. As time went on, he began prescribing stronger narcoticssuch as Oxycontin, morphine, methadone and fentanyl patches,"an FBI statement said.

In addition to prescribing narcotics, the coupleprovided patients with injections of steroids which at timesprovided temporary relief from joint and muscle pain.

While the injections given to the patients weresuperficial, they were billed falsely to the insurancecompanies.

The number of patients coming to the couple grew from50-60 per day in 1998 to more than 100 per day in 2003. Nearlyevery patient was prescribed one or more controlled substancesand put on a regimen of shots every two weeks.

By the beginning of 2000, Sharma had certain patientssign blank procedure notes and then used those forms togenerate a superbill in order to bill the insurance companiesfor injection procedures.

Kiran also hired several foreign medical graduates whohelped add fictitious patient examination information to theblank forms, the FBI statement added.

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