Leslie Turk

Magistrate: Patel case should move forward

by Leslie Turk

Federal Magistrate Judge Mildred Methvin shot down arguments by cardiologist Mehmood Patel who was seeking to have much of the evidence in his health-care fraud case thrown out. U.S. District Judge Tucker Melancon will have final say on the matter.

Patel, who goes on trial in August on 93 counts of health-care fraud, is accused of billing Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers for more than $2 million in unnecessary heart procedures. He has pleaded innocent.

The cardiologist argued that much of the case should be thrown out because it began with what amounted to a warrantless search by a nurse who went through the doctor’s records at the behest of federal investigators. Methvin agreed with Patel’s attorneys that federal agents had likely asked or suggested that the nurse obtain medical records from the doctor’s practice but says the search did not violate Patel’s rights because he had no reasonable expectation of privacy in regard to the records, which were in a leased mobile laboratory and readily accessible to other workers.

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