Health Care

Patel whistleblower suit settles for $650K

by Leslie Turk

Yet another settlement reached in case involving Lafayette doc who once boasted of being the nation's busiest cardiologist.

Former Lafayette cardiologist Mehmood Patel, who once bragged of being the nation’s busiest cardiologist but is now serving a 10-year sentence for health care fraud, will have to pony up $650,000 in a long line of settlements to come from him performing unnecessary medical procedures and bilking Medicare in the process.

U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced Tuesday that a civil settlement was reached with Patel-affiliated Acadiana Cardiology LLC, Acadiana Cardiovascular Center and the convicted doctor himself.

Patel was indicted in 2006 on 94 counts of health care fraud, and a jury found him guilty of 51 counts in 2008 after a two-month trial. His procedure of choice involved the insertion of a coronary stent (a small tube shaped device like the one pictured above) into the arteries of patients, some of whom, medical records in court showed, had no blockage at all.

He was sentenced to serve 120 months in prison and five years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $387,511 in restitution and a $175,000 fine.

In 2006, Our Lady of Lourdes agreed to pay a $3.8 million settlement, and two years later Lafayette General Medical Center paid a $1.9 million to settle claims of overbilling at the hands of Patel.

Patel was 67 when he began serving his sentence in late 2012. According to this 2013 Bloomberg story (read it, if you haven’t already), tax returns revealed that by 2003 Patel’s annual income had reached $6 million. When Bloomberg published its story, he was earning $5 a month as supervisor of a cleaning crew at the Federal Correctional Complex in Oakdale.

Patel whistleblower Dr. Christopher Mallavarapu

The U.S intervened in the whisteblower lawsuit one of Patel's colleagues, Dr. Christopher Mallavarapu, brought against Patel and his entities to recover damages under the False Claims Act. The federal civil fraud statute allows individuals who have witnessed fraud to sue on behalf of the U.S. government under the statute’s qui tam provisions and recoup a portion of the recovered money.

ABiz’s inquiry into the U.S. attorney’s office concerning how much Mallavarapu collected for his efforts was still pending when this story was posted.

From 2000 to 2003, the U.S. alleged that the defendants submitted 207 false claims for unnecessary cardiovascular, endovascular and related procedures that Patel performed at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Lafayette General Medical Center, Acadiana Cardiology and Acadiana Cardiovascular Center.

“This is a significant recovery,” Finley said in a press release. “Health care providers should know they will be held accountable for the care that they provide and the claims they submit for care. We hope this settlement sends a message that those in the health care industry who overcharge federal programs and perform medically unnecessary treatments will be held accountable, both criminally and civilly.”