Ex-Operator Of 2 Central Texas Hospitals Convicted Of Fraud

Tariq Mahmood (File)

TYLER (July 24, 2014) Dr. Tariq Mahmood, the former operator of hospitals in Cameron and Whitney and others around the state, was convicted Thursday of conspiracy, identity theft and health care fraud stemming from fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid claims.

A U.S. District Court jury in Tyler found Mahmood guilty of making fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid claims totaling more than $1 million.

Mahmood could be sentenced to as much as 10 years in prison on the conspiracy count, 10 years on each fraud count and two years on each identity theft count.

A sentencing date wasn’t immediately set.

During the four-day trial, some medical workers responsible for treatment billing codes testified that they felt pressured by Mahmood to falsify data to get more money from Medicare.

Norma Longley testified Monday that she balked at changing billing codes for Renaissance Hospital Terrell patients.

She testified that Mahmood insisted diagnoses by other doctors be altered to reflect more expensive treatments and said she later discovered her codes for Medicare reimbursements were altered.

Hospitals operated by the Cedar Hill physician improperly billed Medicare 80 percent of the time and continued the fraudulent billing even after being warned by government auditors, federal prosecutors said in court records.

The indictments alleged he conspired to submit more than $1.1 million in false billings to enrich himself even as his hospitals in East Texas and elsewhere lacked funding to operate effectively.

In a document filed last week at a pre-trial hearing in the case, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas says ""When this evidence is coupled with witness testimony that the defendant was directing individuals to submit fraudulently changed codes, it proves the existence of the defendant's scheme to defraud Medicare."

Mahmood once owned six rural hospitals in Texas, all of which now are either closed or struggling under new ownership.

His hospital in Whitney closed its doors earlier this year after struggling to stay open on a limited schedule.

The board tried to sell it to another owner but because there was some question about Mahmood's involvement, the sale did not go through.

The hospital in Cameron was successfully transferred to new owners and has since remained open and serving patients.

Mahmood also owned the Renaissance Terrell Hospital, which closed in February 2013 after a federal agency halted funding, and operated Cozby Germany Hospital in Grand Saline, Community General Hospital in Dilley and Shelby Regional Medical Center in Center.