Ex-cardiologist reports to federal prison

Former cardiologist Dr. Mehmood M. Patel reported to federal prison this week to begin serving a 10-year prison term on a health care fraud conviction for allegedly billing insurers for unnecessary treatments and falsifying medical records to support the payments.

Patel, 67, reported to prison on Monday after more than three years of unsuccessful challenges to his conviction, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley said in a written statement that her office hopes Patel’s incarceration will “send a message that there is a day of reckoning for anyone who fails to ethically care for their patients.”

A federal jury in 2008 convicted Patel on 51 counts of health care fraud after a three-month trial and a judge in 2009 sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

Patel had remained free since then while appealing the case to the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which earlier this year upheld his conviction.

He was accused of falsifying medical records and medical test results to justify unnecessary heart procedures.

Patel billed Medicare and private insurance companies more than $3 million over a three-year period, and the doctor was the top biller for cardiology services in Louisiana from 1999 to 2003, according to figures from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Patel’s attorney, Amy Adelson, had asked the 5th Circuit to allow him to remain free pending a request to the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

The appeals court last month denied the request to postpone the start of the prison sentence.

The former cardiologist can still appeal the case to the Supreme Court.