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Westlake cardiologist accused of $7.2 million medical fraud


CLEVELAND (AP) --€” A cardiologist referred patients for cardiac bypass surgery they didn't need so he could be paid for follow-up visits, federal authorities said Thursday.

Dr. Harold Persaud, of suburban Westlake, was indicted in federal court on charges of health care fraud, making false statements and money laundering. FBI agents raided his offices in late October 2012 and seized patient files and other records. The overbilling scheme occurred between February 2006 and June 2012, authorities said.

Persaud, 55, pleaded not guilty to all 16 counts on Thursday and was released on bond. His attorney said he denies the allegations.

"Dr. Persaud is an excellent cardiologist who gave quality care to his patients for more than 25 years," attorney Henry J. Hilow said.

A spokesman from the U.S. attorney's office in Cleveland said Persaud is accused of overbilling Medicaid and health insurance companies $7.2 million, which resulted in payments of $1.5 million.

Besides the unnecessary bypass referrals, Persaud is accused of performing unnecessary heart catheterizations and stent insertions and then falsely recording the percentage of blockage in patients' heart vessels. He's accused of placing a stent in an artery of one patient who had a functioning bypass, endangering the patient's life.

FBI agent in charge Stephen Anthony said in a statement that Persaud violated the "sacred trust" between physician and patient.

"He ripped off taxpayers and put patients' lives at risk," Anthony said.

Authorities hope to seize $343,000 from accounts held by Persaud and his wife. The indictment accuses Persaud of transferring $250,000 from his business bank account into a certificate of deposit in his wife's name at another bank.

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