Texas Doctor Stole Identities, Forged Patient Records in Fraud Scheme; More

Naomi Shammash

July 27, 2021

Doctor Guilty of Fraud and Identity Theft Gets 7 Years in Jail

Grigoriy T. Rodonaia, MD, a family physician in Port Neches, Texas, was convicted of 12 counts of healthcare fraud, three counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of making a false statement toward the end of 2020.

Rodonaia began his criminal activity in 2015, when he issued more than 600 prescriptions for scar creams using information from more than 140 beneficiaries of TRICARE, a military healthcare program, without their knowledge or consent. The pharmacy billed TRICARE a total of $6.7 million before Rodonaia's scheme was detected. Rodonaia also forged patients' records to say that he had examined the patients, and he submitted fraudulent records to the Defense Health Agency in response to an audit.

Rodonaia was sentenced to 7 years in federal prison on June 24, 2021, and was ordered to pay $195,607.76 in restitution.

Psychiatric Hospital and Nursing Staff Sued for Death of Patient

Jeremiah Bagley, 37, died after being restrained by psychiatric nursing staff and injected with an antipsychotic and a sedative at the Rio Grande State Center, in Harlingen, Texas.

An autopsy revealed that Jeremiah had several fractured vertebrae, cracked ribs, a lacerated spleen, and multiple contusions on his upper body. The autopsy report lists the cause of death as "excited delirium due to psychosis with restraint-associated blunt force trauma."

Bagley's father filed a lawsuit naming the hospital and 10 employees as defendants, saying that his son's civil rights were violated. The Texas Supreme Court ruled on April 16, 2021, that the staffers who were charged must submit expert reports, despite the fact that medical malpractice was not alleged. Usually, such a lawsuit would be dismissed because a report was not served by the statutory deadline, but in a 9-0 decision, the high court allowed the case to proceed.

Plaintiff attorney Katie P. Klein told Claims Journal, "He probably struck someone and everybody got mad and they jumped him. He had four or five people on him, which was not permitted."

Ob/Gyn Gets 59 Years in Prison

Javaid Perwaiz, MD, a 71-year-old ob/gyn from Chesapeake, Virginia, was convicted of performing medically unnecessary and irreversible surgeries, including hysterectomies and sterilizations, on multiple patients for more than 10 years.

Karl Schumann, acting special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI's) Norfolk, Virginia field office, said in a statement, "With unnecessary, invasive medical procedures, Dr Perwaiz not only caused enduring complications, pain and anxiety to his patients, but he assaulted the most personal part of their lives and even robbed some of their future."

Perwaiz was also convicted of 52 counts of healthcare fraud and of making false statements in late 2020. His fraud allegedly cost insurance programs nearly $21 million. The investigation began in September 2018 after a hospital employee contacted the FBI after suspecting that Perwaiz was performing unnecessary surgeries. More than 25 former patients testified at the trial, and the court received more than 60 victim impact statements.

Perwaiz had a long criminal history, according to The New York Times. In 1982, Perwaiz lost medical privileges at Maryview Hospital, in Portsmouth, Virginia, because of performing unnecessary surgeries and displaying poor clinical judgment. His medical license was reinstated in 1998.

Doctor Who Prescribed Opioids Out of Car Charged With Murder

George M. Blatti, MD, a family physician in New York, was charged with five counts of murder for the opioid-related deaths of his patients and 11 counts of reckless endangerment in the first degree, according to The New York Times. Blatti's medical license has been revoked, and he has pleaded not guilty.

Blatti had been seeing patients and giving prescriptions out of his car in parking lots, where he would prescribe pain medications without examining the patients. Many of these patients were struggling with addiction to opioids or other drugs. The alleged victims — three men and two women, who were between the ages of 30 and 60 — were prescribed 45,000 pills over 4 years, despite the fact that each showed clear signs of addiction, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors allege that Blatti knew that several of his patients had died of overdoses, and he ignored pleas from their family members to stop enabling their addictions. They also say he ignored warnings from insurers about excessive opioid prescribing and was questioned by the New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct about it in 2017.

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