Leslie Turk

Patel trial begins

by Leslie Turk

Jury selection is under way in the federal health-care fraud case against Dr. Mehmood Patel, who is accused of  more than $2 million in fraudulent billing for unnecessary medical procedures.

The cardiologist faces multiple counts of health-care fraud for allegedly billing Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers for unnecessary heart procedures, mainly angioplasties and stents on more than 70 patients treated by Patel from 2001 to 2004. The patients also filed lawsuits against the doctor, Lafayette General and Our Lady of Lourdes. Both hospitals settled the suits.

The Advocate reports today that jury selection is expected to stretch for a few days as U.S. District Judge Tucker Melancon and the attorneys extensively question each juror in a complicated case that has received much media attention. The trial could last up to eight weeks, with prosecutors planning from four to six weeks to present their case and Patel’s attorneys anticipating from one to two weeks to mount a defense, according to pre-trial court filings.

The investigation of Patel began in March 2002 after nurse Neal Kinn filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The doctor was indicted in 2006.