Indian American cardiologist arrested for unlawful opioid distribution, health care fraud

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An Indian American cardiologist of Elko, Nevada, was arrested on 39-charges of unlawful distribution of prescription opioids and Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

The 58-year-old Dr. Devendra I Patel, aka Devendrakumar I. Patel was arrested on Tuesday and is charged with 36-counts of distribution of controlled substances such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, and three counts of health care fraud, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

According to the indictment, from May 2014 to September 2017, Patel, who is a cardiologist at his medical practice Northeastern Nevada Cardiology, routinely prescribed fentanyl, hydrocodone, and oxycodone for his patients without a legitimate medical purpose and that he fraudulently billed Medicare and Medicaid for medical tests that he did not perform.

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Patel performed EDGs on his patients, so he could then order nuclear stress tests which he did not administer. The indictment also alleges that he used a poorly calibrated machine and presented his patients with fraudulent X-Rays, in order to deceive his patients into thinking they had coronary issues that needed to be treated by him.

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“Today we are facing the worst crisis in American history, with one American dying of a drug overdose every nine minutes,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in the statement. “This summer, I ordered the creation of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which brings together data analysts and Assistant United States Attorneys from throughout the country to prosecute doctors engaged in opioid-related health care fraud.”

“Dr. Patel is the first person to be charged in Nevada since the formation of the Justice Department’s Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit,” Acting US Attorney for the District of Nevada Steven W. Myhre said.

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Over 64,000 Americans died from drug overdose in 2016 and majority of these deaths can be attributed to opioids, including illicit fentanyl.

The statutory maximum penalty for distribution of a controlled substance and health care fraud is ten years each, in prison. Patel appeared in the federal court on Wednesday in Reno.