Jury convicts Ohio cardiologist of overbilling Medicare by $7.2 million

A jury in Ohio convicted cardiologist Harold Persaud of performing unnecessary tests and procedures and overbilling Medicare and private insurers by $7.2 million.

Persaud, 56, of Westlake, Ohio, was convicted of one count of healthcare fraud, 13 counts of making false statements and one count of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from criminal activity. The jury acquitted him on one count of making a false statement. According to court documents and trial testimony, Persaud participated in the scheme from Feb. 16, 2006, through June 28, 2012.

“This doctor violated the sacred trust between doctor and patient by ordering unnecessary tests, procedures and surgeries to line his pockets,” Stephen D. Anthony, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office, said in a news release. “He ripped off taxpayers and put patients’ lives at risk.”

Court documents and trial testimony showed that Persaud performed medically unnecessary nuclear stress tests; recorded false nuclear stress test results to justify performing medically unnecessary cardiac catheterization procedures; falsely recorded lesions observed during cardiac catheterization procedures; inserted cardiac stents in patients who did not need them; referred patients for CABG when the surgery was not necessary; and performed medically unnecessary stent procedures, aortograms, renal angiograms and other procedures and tests.

Persaud was indicted in August 2014 following an FBI and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services investigation. Of the $7.2 million in improper billing, Medicare and private insurers paid $1.5 million, according to the indictment.

“The evidence presented at this trial was troubling,” U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach said in a news release. “Inflating Medicare billings alone would be bad enough. Falsifying cardiac care records, making an unnecessary referral for open heart surgery and performing needless and sometimes invasive heart tests and procedures is inconsistent with not only federal law but a doctor’s basic duty to his patients.”