AfricaNYTimes

Florida Doctor Bilked $26 Million From Health Insurers, Officials Say

A Florida doctor who had ambitions to one day become the president of Ghana faces charges of bilking $26 million from health insurers for surgeries he did not perform or for carrying out unnecessary procedures, federal court records show.

The doctor, Moses deGraft-Johnson, was charged this month with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and more than 50 counts of health care fraud, according to court records filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

Dr. deGraft-Johnson, who owned and operated the Heart and Vascular Institute of North Florida in Tallahassee, a doctor’s office and outpatient catheterization lab, used his privileges at a hospital to poach patients “for purposes of subsequently billing health care benefit programs for interventional vascular procedures” that were never done, court records said.

From September 2015 to this month, Dr. deGraft-Johnson submitted scores of fraudulent claims to health insurers, including Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, court papers said.

Prosecutors said some patients who visited his office received a diagnostic angiography — a procedure used to assess if a patient has heart disease — “whether medically necessary or not.”

Other procedures he billed for were recorded as being done when Dr. deGraft-Johnson was actually traveling abroad, prosecutors said. For instance, during a three-day period in 2018, he claimed to have performed 13 atherectomies, a procedure to open blocked coronary arteries or vein grafts, or balloon angioplasties on dates he was overseas, court records said.

In another case, he claimed to have done 14 procedures, with up to a 45-minute turnaround time between patients, on a day in December 2017. What he said he accomplished in seven hours would have taken roughly 28 hours, prosecutors said.

During the five-year period, Dr. deGraft-Johnson claimed to have performed at least 3,631 atherectomies, and health insurers paid him at least $26.6 million as a result, court documents said.

Investigators looked at the doctor’s credit card accounts, which showed more than $1 million in purchases at Tiffany & Company and Cartier. Dr. deGraft-Johnson said he had five car leases, including ones for a Ferrari and Lamborghini, court records said.

Dr. deGraft-Johnson, a naturalized American citizen who was born in Ghana, sent at least $1.8 million in international wire transfers to people or entities in Ghana. He told officials that his ultimate long-term professional goal was to be the president of Ghana.

“While the government is not in a position to evaluate the feasibility of such an endeavor, it appears that Dr. deGraft-Johnson’s family member was the vice president of Ghana in the early 1980s,” prosecutors said in court papers. Officials did not identify the relative.

Dr. deGraft-Johnson pleaded not guilty in court on Thursday. At a detention hearing on Friday, William Bubsey, Dr. deGraft-Johnson’s lawyer, said his client was “a wonderful doctor,” and that any money he sent overseas was to help the people of Ghana and not himself, The Associated Press reported.

Mr. Bubsey on Saturday said he would need to speak to Dr. deGraft-Johnson before commenting.

Dr. deGraft-Johnson has been a licensed Florida doctor since 2010, according to the Florida Department of Health, which did not have any disciplinary actions or public complaints about him listed on its website.

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