Kemah doctor gets 15 years in health care fraud case
U.S. District Judge David Hittner sentenced a Kemah doctor to 15 years in prison and ordered him to forfeit $43 million Tuesday after the doctor pleaded guilty to health care fraud and conspiracy.
Dr. Arun Sharma, 56, could not be reached for comment. His wife, Dr. Kiran Sharma, has pleaded guilty to the same charges and will be sentenced Feb. 23.
According to U.S. Attorney Jose Angel Moreno, the husband-wife doctor team conspired from 1998 to 2009 to fraudulently bill Medicare, Medicaid and private health care providers for joint injections that never were performed.
At the same time, Moreno said, they were running a "pill mill" in which they prescribed controlled substances to nearly every patient they saw.
"Dr. Arun Sharma was known as an easy touch for prescribing the 'pain cocktail' of hydrocodone, Xanax and Soma," Moreno said. "As time went on, the doctor began prescribing stronger narcotics such as Oxycontin, morphine , methadone and fentanyl patches."
The number of patients that the Sharmas saw quickly escalated from an average of 50 a day to as high as 279 per day, authorities said.
During the 10-year operation, the Sharmas operated multiple medical clinics under the name Allergy, Asthma, Arthritis Pain Center, with principal locations in Baytown and Webster.
In a similar case, Nancy Sellars, who was stripped of her medical license for operating what authorities described as a "pill mill" in Houston in 2001, pleaded guilty on Thursday to doing the same thing again.
She received two 3-year sentences after admitting to fraudulently prescribing controlled substances and practicing medicine without a license.
In 2001, she pleaded guilty to the same charge for which she received deferred adjudication and lost her medical license.
Her guilty plea on Thursday followed a three-month investigation that forced the closing of three clinics that authorities contended had been illegally distributing addictive drugs.
$1.4 million in 2009
According to investigators, the clinics were responsible for distributing more than 3 million tablets of hydrocodone, Xanax and Soma in 2009 and were on pace to distribute 5 million this year. The operations grossed more than $1.4 million in 2009, authorities said, making these clinics one of the top 10 volume dealers of illegal prescription drugs in the state.
Sellars was recorded as the owner of one of the three clinics, S&G Medical Clinic on Jones Road.
Dr. Christina Clardy, who lives in West University Place, served as medical director over all three of them. A charge of engaging in organized crime is pending against her.
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