Health

Louisiana Doctors Still Practice Medicine While Under Investigation

| by Michael Allen

According to evidence gathered by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, four Louisiana physicians allegedly wrote hundreds of fake prescriptions that powered multimillion-dollar health-care frauds in the Baton Rouge area.

Amazingly, all four physicians remain licensed to practice medicine, including two who pleaded guilty and a third convicted at a jury trial in August. The fourth doctor, who had a previous probation of his license, is fighting the charges in his indictment.

Dr. Sofjan Lamid was ordered by the Board of Medical Examiners in 1991 to surrender "for life his DEA permit for prescription and dispensation of controlled drugs," according to the board order.

But Dr. Lamid retained authority to prescribe Medicare-funded power wheelchairs for patients. In August of 2011, Lamid was convicted by a federal jury in Baton Rouge on charges he accepted kickbacks for writing unnecessary prescriptions for power wheelchairs that resulted in fraudulent Medicare costs of $2.5 million. He has not yet been sentenced.

The medical license of Dr. Anthony S. Jase was placed on probation for three years in October 2010 for his failure to control prescription pads used to obtain amphetamines, codeine, Hydrocodone and Lomotil.

Those penalties were imposed before Jase completed a prior three-year period of license probation ordered in 2008 for what the board described as his acceptance of "cash for office-visit fees calculated ... on the amount of medications prescribed."

Dr. Jase pleaded guilty this year in a federal case that alleges he and others bilked Medicare out of more than $470,000 for unnecessary equipment or services. He agreed he owes restitution of $230,963 to Medicare.

Dr. Michael Selwyn Hunter is now waiting for his Baton Rouge trial on Medicare fraud charges, had his license placed on probation for five years by the Board of Medical Examiners in May 2010.

Dr. Hunter was also stripped of his right to practice in the "management of non-malignant chronic or intractable pain or in the treatment of obesity." The board ordered Hunter not to prescribe any medications for weight control or weight reduction.

Dr. Hunter is accused in a federal indictment in Baton Rouge of providing bogus prescriptions for home health care services that fueled an alleged illegal scheme that netted $14.9 million from Medicare.

Dr. Dahlia Kirkpatrick remains licensed to practice medicine in Louisiana even though she is serving a 30-month prison term for providing unnecessary prescriptions to a medical equipment retailer who defrauded Medicare of $302,811. She pleaded guilty in October 2010 and was informed at sentencing that she and the retailer are jointly responsible for repayment of Medicare's loss.

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Officials of the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners declined to comment on the physicians, three of whom had their licenses suspended or placed on probation for questionable prescription practices before being charged in the crimes.