Texas doctor allegedly prescribed unnecessary medical procedures to fund buying private jet, Maserati and real estate holdings
Dr Jorge Zamora-Quezada has been accused of charging patients for unnecessary treatments including chemotherapy in an elaborate case of fraud.
A Texas-based doctor funded his lavish lifestyle by performing unnecessary chemotherapy sessions and prescribing expensive medication to potentially, thousands of patients, according to the US Justice Department. 61-year-old Dr Jorge Zamora-Quezada owned a business jet and a Maserati as well as various landholdings.
Dr Jorge Zamora-Quezada owned medical practices across the state of Texas. His primary practice was in the field of rheumatology. He also set up various shell organizations to obscure the flow of money stemming from excessive and fraudulent treatments, the indictment said.
The doctor has earned $50 million (£37m) since 2000 for performing a variety of treatments on countless patients. He used some of the money to.buy a six-seat Eclipse 500 business jet. He also acquired a number of land holdings and a blue 2017 Maserati Granturismo Coupe.
In 2006, the Texas Medical Board accused Zamora-Quezada of prescribing a drug “inconsistent with public health and welfare” and of “billing for treatment that was improper, unreasonable, or medically or clinically unnecessary,” according to a 2010 report by The Dallas Morning News. He accepted a public reprimand, monitoring by other doctors and a $30,000 (£22,191) fine in the case.
According to investigators, Zamora-Quesada, along with co-conspirators, took part in a $240 million (£178m) healthcare fraud scheme and international money-laundering operation. They funded their illegal activities by overcharging patients and prescribing unnecessary and often dangerous treatments.
The doctor is facing a seven-count charge and he could be looking at a very long prison sentence possibly lasting multiple decades. His clientele included multiple children and elderly patients. Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas Oxman confirmed that he remains in custody and a court date has been set for July 2.
Earlier this week, CJ Porter, a special agent with the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General, said in a statement: “His patients trusted him and presumed his integrity; in return he allegedly engaged in a scheme of false diagnoses and bogus courses of treatment ... with no regard for patient well-being.”
One of the doctor’s patients, Nora Rodriguez, told CNN that he yelled and threw her out of his office after she questioned his treatment.
“He kept getting upset when I was asking him why I was feeling worse and not getting better,” she said.
Zamora-Quezada reportedly received $42,450 (£31,400) over a span of a year from Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company, The Dallas Morning News reported, citing ProPublica data. The Independent reports that Eli Lilly did not respond to questions on Dr. Zamora-Quezada's total revenue from the company or why he was paid by it.
It is not yet clear how many patients could be affected. The charge sheet names more than a dozen people but also notes that Zamora-Quezada hid away thousands of medical records in a dilapidated barn. A ProPublica report found that he saw more than 1,500 patients in 2015 alone and was paid $1,672 (£1,237) per patient - well above the $955 (£706) average in Texas.
The doctor's plane and Maserati have been seized by authorities. The doctor has also been accused of sexual assault in the past by four of his former employees. He allegedly also owned various real estate properties that he used to rent out in order to give the appearance of generating legal income. All his properties in Texas, Colorado and California have since been seized along with a pair of penthouses in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.