Surgeon sentenced for billing sham surgeries to Medicare

New Jersey residents may be interested in the latest developments in a criminal case against an orthopedic surgeon who was accused of charging Medicare for thousands of surgeries that never took place. On March 7, the doctor, who practiced in Poughkeepsie, was sentenced to 4.5 years in federal prison. He pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud in October. He was also ordered to pay a $250,000 fine and $5 million in restitution to the government as well as to surrender his license to practice in all states.

The charge stemmed from a medical malpractice investigation that showed the doctor had submitted false health care claims for thousands of surgeries that he had not actually performed. Prosecutors say that the scheme resulted in more than $35 million claims between 2007 and 2011. It's believed that the doctor earned more than $7 million in compensation over that period. Prosecutors say that, after the scheme was uncovered, the doctor blamed the issue on clerical errors.

The sentencing was packed with the doctor's supporters and his detractors. Some patients said that their lives were ruined because of the doctor's botched surgeries. One woman said that she is barely able to walk and is unable to let her grandchildren sit on her lap because it's too painful. Another woman said she had to quit working and go on disability because the surgery had gone so poorly.

More than 260 patients have filed medical malpractice suits against the doctor and his former practice. Those suits had been delayed by an order of stay, which is meant to prevent a defendant from incriminating himself. However, now that the criminal case has concluded, that order may be lifted so that the civil suits can move ahead.