A Ghanaian doctor in the U.S. faces a 17-year prison term if convicted of a single count of attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
Dr. Moses deGraft-Johnson, owner of the Heart and Vascular Institute of North Florida, is accused of committing health-care fraud by deliberately performing test on unsuspecting patients so he can bill the federal government and health insurance companies for phantom surgeries and others.
DeGraft-Johnson, according to federal prosecutors, illegally gained $23 million by submitting claims for surgeries he never performed.
The prominent Tallahassee cardiovascular surgeon, according to his attorney, William Bubsey deserved to be released on bond given he’s not had a brush with the law till now.
Bubsey added his client even saved rapper 50 Cent’s life when he was shot multiple times in 2000 before becoming the notable star he is today.
Having been indicted Feb. 4 on 58 counts of health-care fraud and related charges, on Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Stampelos reckoned that deGraft-Johnson was a flight risk and ordered he should be held at the Federal Detention Center in Tallahassee pending his trial, currently set for March 23.
Bubsey, however, urged Stampelos to free him on bond and let him reside at his downtown Tallahassee condo with an ankle monitor, adding his client had no criminal history or problems with drugs and alcohol and wouldn’t pose a danger to the community.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Grogan held that while deGraft-Johnson claims to have only $200,000 in checking and savings accounts, he actually owned more than a million dollars in cash assets.
Grogan expressed fear the doctor could escape noting, “you can get enough money to hit the road, that’s what we’re concerned about.”
DeGraft-Johnson’s attorney, however, said as to how much his client supposedly made “that’s for a jury to decide.”
Prosecutors also suggested deGraft-Johnson lived a fabulous life with his alleged ill-gotten wealth. They claimed the doctor, his wife and children live in a high rise apartment in Manhattan while having residences in South Hampton, New York; Miami and outside Houston.
“He traveled abroad to Madrid, London, Ghana and China, sometimes billing for procedures on dates he was overseas,” the prosecutor further asserted.
According to the indictment, deGraft-Johnson and an office assistant, Kimberly Austin, conspired to bill for vascular procedures that were never performed on patients with Grogan saying deGraft-Johnson actually got over $23 million from the scheme while the indictment identified about $1.2 million in fraudulent claims.
Rachel Stiles, a spokeswoman for Capital Regional Medical Center, an institute which had dealing with deGraft-Johnson, made it clear he was never employed by the hospital and always acted as an independent contractor.
“Capital Regional Medical Center has had no affiliation with the Heart and Vascular Institute of North Florida,” she said in an emailed statement.
In a published interview, DeGraft-Johnson disclosed his ambition of running Ghana’s presidential race to lead the West African nation in good time.
In court, his wife, their young children and relatives sobbed during proceedings with his tearful brother, saying “this is not in his character or this family’s character.”