BR woman gets 8 years in Medicare fraud, scheme

A Baton Rouge woman who was part-owner of two psychiatric clinics in Baton Rouge and one in Houston was sentenced Monday to more than eight years in federal prison for orchestrating an elaborate scheme to bilk Medicare out of hundreds of millions of dollars for unnecessary or never-provided services.

Hoor Naz Jafri, 54, also has been ordered to repay $43.5 million as restitution, along with an undetermined amount of ill-gotten profits she amassed. Jafri previously had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud as well as conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks.

She is one of 17 people convicted in a wide-ranging investigation that began in 2011. It has uncovered more than $258 million in fraudulent Medicare billing between 2005 and 2011, of which about $43.5 million was paid out.

Jafri is a naturalized citizen and a native of India.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Jackson issued the sentence.

Jafri was part-owner of Shifa Community Mental Health Center on Goya Avenue and Serenity Center on Lobdell Boulevard, as well as the Houston-based Shifa Community Mental Health Center of Texas.

Roslyn Dogan, co-owner of Serenity, was convicted on May 21 after a six-day trial before Jackson and is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 25.

The investigation is being conducted by a multiagency Medicare Fraud Strike Force under the supervision of the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana.

U.S. Attorney Walt Green said Jafri was bringing in patients from out of state to attend therapy sessions at her clinics, and that she housed them in apartments she co-owned and managed.

“They were bused in from Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, just about every Southern state,” he said.

Prosecutors previously had revealed that Jafri found her elderly, drug addicted and chronically mentally ill patients by rounding them up from homeless shelters, nursing homes and other facilities and then proceeded to misuse them by offering inadequate, inappropriate or, in some cases, no care at all.

Green said it is the largest case of Medicare fraud involving mental health centers that the Middle District has seen and that the investigation remains ongoing.