A Texas doctor who falsely diagnosed patients with lifelong illnesses and needlessly subjected some to chemotherapy drugs as part of a $325 million healthcare fraud case was convicted by a jury Wednesday.
Jorge Zamora-Quezada, M.D., a 63-year-old rheumatologist, falsely told patients they had illnesses, including rheumatoid arthritis, and treated them with unnecessary medications such as chemotherapy drugs, according to the Department of Justice. He then falsely billed insurers for millions of dollars.
“The conduct in this case was heinous,” Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said in a statement. “Dr. Zamora-Quezada falsely diagnosed vulnerable patients, including the young, elderly and disabled, with life-long diseases requiring invasive treatments that those patients did not in fact need.”
Zamora-Quezada operated medical practices throughout South Texas and San Antonio and traveled to his various offices on his private jet and in his Maserati, law enforcement officials said.
Following a 25-day trial, a federal jury found Zamora-Quezada, of Mission, Texas, guilty of one count to commit healthcare fraud, seven counts of healthcare fraud and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 27 by U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa of the Southern District of Texas, who presided over the trial.
The doctor played a role in a $325 million healthcare fraud scheme in which he falsely diagnosed a large number of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a life-long, incurable disease, and treated them with toxic medications such as chemotherapy drugs on the basis of that false diagnosis, the Department of Justice said.
Many of the patients, including one as young as 13, suffered physical and emotional harm as a result of the chemotherapy injections, hours’ long intravenous infusions, and other excessive, repetitive and profit-driven medical procedures, the DOJ said.
“As evidenced by the length of the trial, this was a massive investigation into one of the worst medical fraudsters,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas. “Unnecessary medical tests to create millions of dollars of false billing is as bad as it gets. Patients were put through unneeded anxiety and pain so the doctor could make millions. He won’t need it where he’s headed.”
Law enforcement officials said it was one of the worst cases they had seen.
“The guilty verdict against Dr. Zamora-Quezada ensures he will pay a steep price for his unthinkably callous and cruel criminal conduct, committed for the sheer sake of greed,” said Special Agent in Charge C.J. Porter, of the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OIG).
“Rarely do we see such an egregious case of healthcare fraud, where so many patients received years of unnecessary and debilitating treatments, which were rendered out of sheer greed,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the FBI’s San Antonio Field Office.
The evidence presented at trial showed that to obstruct and mislead a federal grand jury investigation, Zamora-Quezada falsified medical records.