Psychiatrist says he’ll plead guilty in Medicare fraud case

Dr. Zahid Imran Show caption
Dr. Zahid Imran

Baton Rouge psychiatrist Dr. Zahid Imran confirmed Thursday that he has agreed to plead guilty in a criminal case that alleged he participated in a scheme that cost Medicare $37.9 million.

“That’s correct,” Imran, 56, said. “I am pleading guilty. I made severe errors in judgment. I am going to take full responsibility for anything that went wrong.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan A. Stevens this week notified Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson of Imran’s intent to plead guilty. On Wednesday, the judge filed notice in the court record that Imran will be rearraigned on Tuesday.

At least six others among the 17 defendants in the 3-year-old FBI and U.S. Health and Human Services investigation have pleaded guilty to related charges over the past two years.

Details of the alleged conspiracy surfaced in May 2012. Justice Department prosecutors David Maria and Abigail Taylor alleged then that hundreds of people were bused into Baton Rouge from Memphis, Tennessee, and other locations to attend therapy sessions at two community mental health clinics.

Those facilities were Shifa Community Mental Health Center in the 6700 block of Goya Avenue and Serenity Center in the 1000 block of Lobdell Boulevard.

Maria said at that time both clinics, owned by and managed by some of the defendants, took advantage of “the elderly, drug addicts and chronically mentally ill individuals by providing them with no services, inadequate services and clinically inappropriate services.”

Imran, one of the owners of Serenity and a psychiatrist for both facilities, acknowledged the same month that he had accepted patients from Memphis, Shreveport, New York and Vicksburg, Mississippi. But he added that all of those patients were referred to him by other clinics in those cities.

“As director of the facility (Serenity), I blame no one but myself,” Imran said Thursday. “I have an abundance of regret and an abundance of shame that this happened. I die every day. I’m not going to be a doctor anymore.”

Taylor, a prosecutor assigned to the Baton Rouge Medicare Strike Force, obtained a guilty plea a year ago from a former office manager for both Serenity and Shifa, Erica Williams, 43, of Beaumont, Texas.

Williams admitted she knowingly routed patients who were not eligible for partial outpatient psychiatric services to a doctor for treatment. She also admitted she falsified records to hide those crimes and directed other employees to falsify related records.

Williams, who also was office manager for a third clinic in Houston told Judge Jackson her actions contributed to Medicare losses of at least $20 million and possibly as much as $49.9 million.

The Houston clinic that Williams formerly managed was owned by people with family or other ties to the two Baton Rouge clinics.

Imran said he hopes to someday build a new career and repair his reputation.

“Unfortunately, I’m going to be incarcerated,” said Imran. “A lot of people in this community stood by me for years,” Imran added. “I appreciate every one of them.” Added Imran: “I definitely don’t want this to be the final chapter of my life.”