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Maryland pain doc wants some fraud charges dropped

April 19, 2017, Frederick, MD — A Frederick doctor accused of a medical kickback scheme and tax fraud is asking a judge to drop some of the charges against him.

Atif Babar Malik, of Germantown, was one of five medical professionals indicted on charges related to financial crimes involving American Spine Center, a pain management practice in Frederick.

Joshua Daniel Greenberg, one of Malik’s attorneys, asked U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis on Wednesday to dismiss eight charges of health care fraud that arose from allegations that Malik and his co-defendant Sandeep Sherlekar falsified medical bills as owners of American Spine Center.

Sherlekar died by suicide on Sept. 30, 2016, soon after the doctors’ indictment was made public.

U.S. prosecutors assert that the physicians billed health insurance programs for anesthesia services and nerve blocking procedures as if two doctors had performed the two different functions. In reality, prosecutors say, one doctor would both administer anesthesia and perform the therapy or diagnosis. They would then put two physicians on the bill to receive a higher reimbursement.

For example, Malik appeared as the anesthesiologist on a bill for $294 when he was actually in New Jersey, the indictment states.

The challenged charges accuse the doctors of collecting roughly $2,670 with these falsified bills, according to the indictment.

Greenberg argued that the indictment does not justify charging Malik with the phantom doctor scheme. It shows that the grand jury found that Sherlekar, not Malik, committed those offenses, he said.

The document states that Sherlekar and Malik defrauded health care benefit programs by charging as if two doctors had performed the procedures and then goes on to explain how Sherlekar was responsible for the false records.

Greenberg said none of the facts presented in the indictment links Malik to the scheme.

“It’s really remarkable how deficient this indictment is,” he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jefferson McClure Gray countered that the indictment was sufficient to charge Malik with medical fraud. The details about the overblown bills show that Malik participated in the transactions, he said.

The law does not require that all of the facts and evidence be laid out in the indictment, he continued.

The billing scheme was only one piece of the charges against Malik and Sherlekar, who prosecutors said fraudulently collected around $530,000 in Medicare reimbursements.

Prosecutors also alleged that the doctors referred patients for lab services such as urine testing in exchange for kickbacks that came to around $1.37 million.

Malik’s attorneys asked Garbis to hold a separate trial to address the count of conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service by failing to report his income from alleged kickbacks he received.

They argued that it would bias a jury to hear prosecutors accuse Malik of being involved in an illegal scheme. If the same jurors were then asked to consider if he had failed to report his taxable income, they would already have a tainted image of the doctor.

Normally in a tax case, it would be inadmissible to assert that the unreported income was gained illegally, Malik’s attorney Barry J. Pollack said.

U.S. attorneys, however, said that it was vital for the jury to understand the full relationship between the defendants so the kickbacks needed to be considered along with the false tax filings.

Garbis will issue rulings on the contested counts and the request to split up the trial at a later date.

Source: The Frederick News-Post

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