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Ex-Doctor Admits to Running Scheme That Bilked Medicare

August 19, 2003|David Rosenzweig | Times Staff Writer

A former Los Angeles physician pleaded guilty Monday to orchestrating a scheme that bilked Medicare out of nearly $3.2 million by paying recruiters to bring in elderly patients and then billing the federal program for fictitious or unnecessary treatments.

Lakshmi Nadgir, 57, who operated a clinic in the Larchmont district, was ordered held, pending a bail hearing Friday in U.S. District Court.

The state medical board revoked her license last year for making false statements on her application to practice medicine and on an application for hospital privileges.

For five years before losing her license, Nadgir secretly paid cash to her employees -- including office managers, physicians' assistants, nurse practitioners and technicians -- to recruit patients with Medicare beneficiary cards through so-called cappers, according to Assistant U.S. Atty. Daniel Rubinstein.

Nadgir then billed Medicare for services that were never performed or were not medically necessary, often without ever seeing the patients, he said.

She also was accused of providing the cappers with false medical diagnoses that they then sold to home health-care services, also involved in cheating Medicare.

Despite her license revocation, Nadgir continued to practice medicine, Rubinstein said. But because Nadgir had lost her status as a Medicare provider, she struck a deal with another physician to use his provider number, Rubinstein said.

Under terms of that arrangement, Nadgir obtained patients and ran day-to-day operations in exchange for 25% of Medicare billings, the prosecutor said. She entered into a similar arrangement with a second physician several months later. The two physicians were not named in the criminal complaint, but were described as unindicted co-schemers.

Nadgir has agreed to cooperate in an FBI investigation of the case. Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Nadgir faces three to four years in prison when she is sentenced Nov. 3.

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