McALLEN, Texas – A Texas urologist and his attorney wife who are accused of violating a U.S. trade embargo with Iran also face federal charges that they defrauded government and private health care programs of more than $1.5 million.
Dr. Hossein Lahiji and his wife Najmeh Vahid Lahiji, a lawyer who ran his South Texas office, allegedly sought reimbursement for services not performed and made false diagnoses. They claimed doctor-level reimbursement for services performed by medical assistants while Lahiji was not in the office and sometimes while he was travelling in Iran, according to a superceding indictment returned Thursday in Houston.
They are charged with health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
The indictment accuses them of having submitted false health care benefit claims since 2003. Prosecutors say Lahiji reported treating as many as 117 patients a day in his McAllen clinic and on multiple occasions billing more hours than exist in a day.
At least twice, Lahiji was travelling in Iran when someone else in his office provided a prescription chemotherapy injection used to treat prostate cancer that the Food and Drug Administration says must be supervised by a physician, the indictment said. He billed as if he had performed it himself.
Allowing medical assistants and untrained personnel to perform these services Hossein Lahiji placed patients "at risk of physical danger," according to the indictment.
The original indictment was returned in January 2011.
The couple was indicted in Oregon in 2010 for giving more than $1.8 million to the Oregon branch of an Iranian children's charity that then sent the money on to Iran. Prosecutors say the transactions violated the trade embargo against Iran. Their donations were used to make investments in Iran that they retained control over, according to the indictment.
They were charged with defrauding the U.S. Treasury and money laundering. They have denied the allegations. Their attorneys did not immediately return calls for comment Friday. Trial in that case was scheduled for early next year.
Prosecutors say the Texas and Oregon charges are not related.