Leslie Turk

Patel wants evidence thrown out

by Leslie Turk

Dr. Mehmood Patel, the local cardiologist facing health-care fraud charges for allegedly performing unnecessary procedures on many of his patients, wants much of the evidence against him thrown out, The Advocate reported today. His attorneys argued Tuesday that the case began with what amounted to a warrant-less search by a nurse acting on a request from federal agents.

Patel's trial is set for August. He is accused of billing Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers more than $2 million in unnecessary heart procedures on 76 patients.

His attorneys contend prosecutors should be blocked from using evidence initially gathered in a 2003 search of Patel’s office on St. Julien Street.

Defense attorney Michael Small of Alexandria said the initial search warrant was based on an essentially improper, warrant-less search by a nurse who went through Patel’s records at the request of federal investigators.

The investigation of Patel began in March 2002 after nurse Neal Kinn filed a complaint with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services fraud hot line.

Kinn testified Tuesday that he began gathering documents related to Patel’s work out of concern the doctor was falsifying medical records to support unnecessary cardiovascular procedures, mainly angioplasties and stents.

According to The Advocate story, Kinn showed those documents to Department of Health and Human Services special agent Barbara Alleman when he met with her after his complaint.

Much of the testimony on Tuesday focused on whether Alleman asked Kinn to gather additional evidence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Uebinger argued that regardless of what information Kinn gave Alleman, only a small portion of that was used to support the initial search warrant for Patel’s office.

Uebinger said the information submitted to secure the warrant was obtained mainly from sources who came forward independently of Kinn, including one of Patel’s former associates, Dr. Christopher Mallavarapu.

Small, however, claimed that the warrant is still tainted because investigators would not have been led to further information if not for what Kinn provided. The Advocate reports that Small's claim centers around the argument that Kinn was acting as an arm of the government and should be held to the same constitutional standards as a law enforcement agent, who would have needed a warrant to go through doctor’s records.