A Ghanaian doctor based in Florida is reported to have swindled the American government and health insurers of more than $26 million to finance his political ambitions in Ghana.
A federal grand jury unsealed a 58-count indictment earlier this month claiming that Dr Moses deGraft-Johnson, falsely billed insurers, including Medicare and Medicaid, for work he did not actually perform.
The vascular surgeon, according to investigators within the federal Department of Health and Human Services claimed to have performed over a five-year period more than 3,600 atherectomies. This is a minimally invasive procedure that clears potentially dangerous buildup in arteries.
The Washington Times reported that authorities said the doctor’s practice in Tallahassee, Florida, also filed claims for angioplasties that were never performed.
Prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, who filed court documents argued to keep him in custody, as they believe he was a flight risk.
They explained that it is because Dr deGraft-Johnson’s “ultimate long-term professional goal” was to one day rule Ghana.
This convinced U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles A. Stampelos who agreed and ordered the doctor held until the March 23 trial.
The American government has said it was “not in a position to evaluate the feasibility of such an endeavour” but saw evidence that he had “been hard at work using the proceeds of fraud in the United States to establish an empire in a foreign country.”
According to the report, investigators said when they looked into the surgeon’s bank account, he had wired at least $1.8 million back home to his associates and other entities.
Dr deGraft-Johnson is said to be related to Joseph W.S. de Graft-Johnson, a one-time Vice President of Ghana in the 1980s.
“He’s a wonderful doctor, and I will defend him vigorously,” William Bubsey, the attorney who represented the Ghanaian surgeon, said during Friday’s detention hearings.
He said it was still uncertain who will represent Dr deGraft-Johnson because the doctor does not have access to his assets.
Disputing the state’s allegations against his client, he said the surgeon’s remittances to Ghana was meant to help “the impoverished people of Ghana and not to enrich himself.”
Also indicted in the case was Kimberly Austin, the office manager of the Heart and Vascular Institute of Northern Florida owned and operated by Dr deGraft-Johnson.
Prosecutors said the two poached patients from a local hospital in which the vascular surgeon had access to medical records and other vital information.
“He used his access to the hospital’s daily census to poach patients for his scheme to defraud, instructing his staff to cold call patients from the hospital so that he could use their presence to fraudulently bill health care programs,” prosecutors said in court documents.
They added that in some cases, the accused was not even in America when some of the procedures were supposed to have been performed.
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