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Indo-US doc couple charged with $31 mn fraud

IANS
Jul 19, 2009 at 03:49pm IST

Washington: An Indian-American doctor couple in Houston has been charged with illegally distributing 1.3 million tablets of a drug and defrauding several public and private health insurance companies of $31 million by filing false claims.

According to the indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Thursday, Dr Arun Sharma and his wife, Dr Kiran Sharma, both 54, operated the Allergy, Asthma, Arthritis and Pain Centers located on Cole Street in Webster, Texas, and another on Garth Road in Baytown, Texas.

The indictment alleges that Dr Arun Sharma routinely saw in excess of 70 patients per day and that he routinely wrote prescriptions for hydrocodone that were not for a legitimate medical purpose in exchange for cash payments, the Federal Bureau fo Investigation said in a press release.

CHARGED WITH FRAUD: The couple, doctors Arun and Kiran Sharma run two clinics in Houston.

Dr Sharma allegedly received the cash payments for his hydrocodone prescriptions directly from the patient and he instructed his patients to take the prescriptions to certain pharmacies to be filled.

Arun and Kiran Sharma, according to the indictment, stored large amounts of cash received from the sale of hydrocodone prescriptions at their home. Kiran Sharma allegedly transported large amounts of cash received from the sale of the hydrocodone prescriptions to two safe deposit boxes - one each at Bank of America and Prosperity Bank.

The doctors also were charged with specific counts of illegal drug distribution for hydrocodone prescriptions written to specific patients.

Both doctors are also accused of conspiring to defraud Medicare, Medicaid and private healthcare insurers including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, Aetna, Cigna and United Healthcare of more than $31 million for facet joint injections and other medical procedures that were allegedly never performed.

The court has ordered summons to be issued directing the Sharmas to appear in federal court for arraignment on August 3, 2009.

Upon conviction, each of the 17 health care fraud counts and the healthcare conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in a federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

The drug conspiracy and each of the 10 drug distribution counts carries a penalty of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Parole has been abolished in the federal prison system.

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