A US-based Ghanaian surgeon, Dr Moses deGragt-Johnson has been indicted after allegedly falsifying $26m in claims from private health insurers and the US government.
The Ghanaian born surgeon who is facing 58 counts of indictment has been accused of performing unnecessary procedures on patients, billing health care companies millions for surgeries he never performed and “poaching” patients at local hospitals.
According to court documents, Moses deGraft-Johnson owned and operated the Heart and Vascular Institute of North Florida since September 2015. Kimberly Austin – his office manager – was also indicted.
Federal prosecutors said in court Friday afternoon they believe there were more than 3,600 surgeries billed over the last five years, with 85 to 90% of them being fraudulent.
The 58 count indictment, which was unsealed Thursday, alleges deGraft-Johnson defrauded Medicare and Medicaid by billing them for dozens of procedures that he never performed.
A detailed list shows each of the claims was for more than $21,000. Federal prosecutors said in court that the amount of money that was improperly billed reached $23 million.
A later motion alleges deGraft-Johnson’s calendar showed he performed 14 surgeries in one day.
“28 hours of surgery will not fit into the time between 8:30 a.m. and 3:15 p.m.,” prosecutors wrote.
Additionally, prosecutors said in court the procedure deGraft-Johnson claimed he performed is “relatively rare.” They also said he does not have enough of the devices required to perform the numerous surgeries he billed patients for.
The indictment contends deGraft-Johnson wasn’t even in the United States on some of those days, but rather was traveling to Madrid, London and other cities in Ghana and China.
Court records show deGraft-Johnson was arraigned in federal court Thursday afternoon and pleaded not guilty.
The Magistrate Judge set his trial for March 23, 2020.
Federal prosecutors requested in court Friday that deGraft-Johnson be detained until his trial, saying the doctor poses a “serious risk of flight.”
Prosecutors contend deGraft-Johnson is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Ghana. They say he has “the motive, the means and the opportunity to flee from the United States to Ghana.”
According to prosecutors, he has two passports, both showing that he has dual citizenship for the United States and Ghana.
In court, prosecutors said deGraft-Johnson’s wife is currently applying for a professional license in Ghana. They claim this is additional evidence that he may flee there.
Prosecutors detailed 19 bank accounts and two credit card accounts tied to Degraft-Johnson and HVINF. Prosecutors say the government’s “preliminary financial analysis has determined that Dr. deGraft-Johnson has wired at least approximately $1.8 million in international wire transfers, primarily to persons or entities in Ghana.”
Prosecutors also contend that deGraft-Johnson has stated his ultimate long-term professional goal is “to be the President of Ghana.”
Prosecutors point out a family member was the vice president of Ghana in the 1980s.
“It therefore seems likely that Defendant may have some political influence in Ghana,” prosecutors wrote.
One witness called to the stand Friday was deGraft-Johnson’s younger brother, who flew in from Houston. He testified that he and his brother were raised to believe that “fair is fair.”
While on the stand, he described deGraft-Johnson’s efforts to tutor and support him. He also testified that he and his brother have created a chain of burger restaurants, similar to a McDonald’s, in Ghana.
He said on the stand that their goal was to export that company to America and make life better for those in Ghana.
The doctor’s brother went on to say neither one of them would ever want to live in Ghana.
Court documents indicate deGraft-Johnson deposited more than $32 million in health care funds into his bank account between November 2015 and August 2019. Prosecutors say that the majority of funds were transferred to other accounts.
A search of his Tallahassee office on Thursday yielded more than $25,000 in cash and a bag with a pre-paid cell phone and several firearms, court documents say.
At one point, deGraft-Johnson told federal agents he had no cash that was not in a bank, but agents found $40,000 cash at one of his residences.
“This suggests that there may be other cash hoards in any of Defendant’s five other residences,” prosecutors wrote.
The doctor’s other residences are located in Miami, Manhattan, Hampton and Texas, prosecutors said in court.
Prosecutors also detailed lavish spending, including millions spent on Tiffany and Cartier jewelry, two Mercedes, and the recent leases of a Ferrari and a Lamborghini.
Prosecutors also said he has three drivers licences, all listing his address in Miami.