$40M Bogus Health Scam Alleged

A couple stole doctors' identities and billed government agencies for more than $40 million in bogus medical services in one of the largest health care fraud schemes ever in California, according to a federal indictment.

Los Angeles residents Khaled Ahmed, 41, and his wife, Sandra Cervantes, 31, handed out gifts at Southern California health fairs and illegally ran medical clinics to find patients for fake billings to Medi-Cal and other health programs, according to the indictment handed up Thursday.

The alleged fraud from 1996 to mid-2000 was the largest of nearly 360 such cases filed over the past several years, the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento said in a statement.

A spokesman for federal prosecutors said Ahmed and Cervantes had not been arrested and would be notified to appear in court. If convicted, each would face up to 10 years in prison, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Linhardt said.

The couple allegedly used a variety of schemes, including billing for unnecessary procedures and supplies, some of which were never provided to patients. The couple billed for treatment by unlicensed doctors and sometimes for treatment that didn't occur, prosecutors said.

The indictment also alleges that Ahmed obtained the names of many patients by setting up mobile clinics at health fairs, where the patients provided urine and blood samples that could aid in producing false billings, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The couple also allegedly billed for full counseling sessions and office visits when patients were in clinics only to have blood and urine samples taken.

Ahmed owned seven clinics in Huntington Park and Los Angeles, though only licensed doctors may own clinics and bill Medi-Cal, California's low-income health insurance plan, prosecutors said. Cervantes allegedly acted as chief biller for Ahmed.

The two could not be reached for comment, the Times said.