According to CNN, a Texas doctor is being charged in a $240 million health care fraud and money laundering scheme which allegedly involved falsely diagnosing patients and administering unnecessary chemotherapy and medication.
The 61-year-old rheumatologist, Dr. Jorge Zamora-Quezada, is alleged to have diagnosed patients with diseases like rheumatoid arthritis in order to subsidize his private jet, Maserati, and Colorado and Mexico property-inclusive lifestyle.
Five years ago, 70-year-old Maria Zapata was diagnosed with arthritis, and was told by Zamora-Quezada she needed injections “to strengthen the cartilage” in her knee. When the husband asked if the extensive care was really necessary, the couple was assured this treatment would improve her non-existent condition. Unfortunately, not only were the injections unnecessary, but they resulted in discoloration of Zapata’s legs, which led to her getting a much-needed second opinion.
The task force looking into the doctor’s malpractice announced on Monday that he was being indicted in a fraud case involving $240 million, comprised of false statements to health care benefit programs that resulted in a total $50 million payment to the doctor. The Department of Justice, too, weighed in on the matter revolving around the doctor’s “lavish” and “opulent lifestyle,” claiming the indictment is only the beginning of a thorough investigation.
“Today’s indictment is the first step in holding Dr. Zamora-Quezada accountable for his allegedly egregious criminal conduct,” said C.J. Porter of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s Dallas Region. “His patients trusted him and presumed his integrity; in return, he allegedly engaged in a scheme of false diagnoses and bogus courses of treatment and doled out prescriptions for unnecessary and harmful medications, all for his personal financial gain and with no regards for patient well-being.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Zamora-Quezada has been in legal trouble concerning his medical treatment, as the Texas Medical Board reprimanded him in 2009 for excessive tests without basis. The indictment essentially lays out that Zamora-Quezada would order “fraudulent, repetitive, and excessive medical procedures on patients in order to increase his revenue.” The related charges—one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, five counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering—will presumably do him in for good.
Another former patient of his, Nora Rodriguez, was aggressively ejected from his office when she questioned his treatment strategies. “He kept getting upset when I was asking him why I was feeling worse and not getting better,” she said. “He yelled and told me, ‘you are no longer my patient; get out of this office.’ I’m getting chills remembering this.” Of course, Zamora-Quezada would uncooperatively reject forwarding his patients’ medical records to other doctors, in order to maintain the facade.
As for the money laundering aspect of all this, the doctor is being accused of being a substantial cog in a giant machine that involved Mexican money exchange houses and various Mexican financial institutions, which he also cribbed from. The Department of Justice is currently requesting his million-dollar private jet, Colorado and Mexico properties, "ZQ"-initialed Maserati, and other luxury vehicles be forfeited.
His colleagues, meanwhile, plead ignorance and shock at what has been occurring. “Honestly, we didn’t know that was going on there,” said Dr. Magdalena Caudillo. “He would never deny any of our patients, even if we knew there was no major diagnosis.”
As it stands, the FBI is requesting any former patients of Zamora-Quezada who feel they’ve been mistreated should step forward by calling 1-833-432-4873 or emailing ZamoraPatient@fbi.gov. Unfortunately, Zamora-Quezada is just a tiny speck in the annual $68 billion health care fraud total—which is a conservative estimate, to make things even bleaker.