Dec 8, 2012 01:03 Patel seeks to remain free Patel seeks to remain free RICHARD BURGESS| Acadiana bureau Dec. 08, 2012 Comments LAFAYETTE — A former Lafayette cardiologist is asking to remain free pending a request that the U.S. Supreme Court hear an appeal of his 2009 health-care fraud conviction and 10-year prison sentence. Dr. Mehmood M. Patel, who is accused of billing insurers for more than $2 million in unnecessary heart procedures, has avoided prison while appealing his federal conviction for the past three years. The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld Patel’s conviction sentence in August, and the court last week denied a request to reconsider the case. “He is a convicted felon, and he should begin serving his sentence,” federal prosecutors wrote in court papers filed on Friday. Patel’s attorney, Amy Adelson, has asked the appeals court to allow Patel to remain free pending his request that the U.S. Supreme Court review the case. Adelson argues that the case is ripe for review by the high court and that Patel’s prosecution highlights the problems of using criminal laws to decide when procedures are deemed medically necessary. Adelson has written in past court filings that the law should not criminalize a doctor’s judgment on how to treat a patient. Prosecutors argue in court filings that Patel should begin serving his sentence now because it is unlikely the Supreme Court will hear the case or consider reversing his convictions on 51 counts of health care fraud. Patel was accused of billing government and private insurers for more than $2 million in unnecessary heart procedures, mainly angioplasties and stents. Prosecutors alleged that Patel lied to patients to get their approval for unnecessary tests and procedures and also falsified medical records to support the work. In addition to the criminal prosecution of Patel, area hospitals paid about $15 million to settle False Claims Act cases brought by the Justice Department in connection with Patel’s work. Patel is a widely known doctor in the area, and the Lafayette chapter of the National Medical Association wrote a letter to the federal appeals court on his behalf, praising Patel for his technical expertise and his concern for patients. “None of the members of our medical association would have any hesitation about having Dr. Patel take care of us as individuals, our families or friends,” the letter stated.