PHOENIX, ARIZ.—A Bullhead City urologist has agreed to settle claims that he falsified invoices to Medicare for more than eight years. Dr. Bashir Azher, M.D. will pay $207,988 to the United States as part of an agreement to resolve civil allegations that he violated the federal False Claims Act.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Arizona announced the settlement today while filing the formal documentation in U.S. District Court in Phoenix.
“This settlement is the latest of our office’s longstanding and ongoing efforts to protect taxpayer dollars and recoup them when misappropriated,” said John S. Leonardo, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona.
“When physicians fail to meet professionally recognized standards of care while providing medically unnecessary procedures, taxpayers’ dollars are wasted and the public’s trust in the medical profession is at risk,” said Timothy B. DeFrancesca, Acting Special Agent in Charge for the Los Angeles Region of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. “Our agents will continue to hold health care providers accountable for improper claims.”
Investigators started taking a closer look at Azher’s billing practices after a competing urologist filed a whistleblower lawsuit last summer. Special Agents believed that Azher’s medical practice was submitting potentially false bills to Medicare for prostate laser ablation procedures, which are more commonly known as Green Light prostatectomies. According to the lawsuit, the urologist performed ‘Green Light’ procedures, which removes portions of the prostate gland, with incredible speed.
While the procedure can last upwards of an hour, the lawsuit alleges that not only did Dr. Azher knowingly perform some of these medical procedures in less than five minutes, but also suggests that such procedures were too short to generate much in the way of therapeutic benefit to the patient. As such, the lawsuit contends Azher ‘submitted materially false claims’ to Medicare for reimbursement for several prostate laser ablation procedures between Feb. 2006 and Jul. 2014.
Although agreeing to settle the lawsuit, Dr. Azher is not admitting guilt or responsibility for the billing or the procedures. According to Leonardo, the settlement is neither an admission of liability by Dr. Azher nor a concession by the United States that its claims are unfounded.
Today’s settlement filing allowed the judge in the case to unseal the whistleblower lawsuit which was filed in Jun. 2014. Once it was opened to the public it was discovered that the competing urologist that filed the lawsuit was former Fort Mohave urologist Dr. Arnaldo Trabucco, M.D., under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. This provision of the act allows private citizens to bring civil actions on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery obtained, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Dr. Trabucco will receive a share of the settlement payment from Dr. Azher that formally resolves the lawsuit the former Fort Mohave urologist filed, which started the investigation.
Dr. Trabucco, who now resides in Florida, recently made headlines in the Tri-State area when his girlfriend and her son, both former Laughlin residents, were arrested in connection with a murder conspiracy they had allegedly planned to carry out against the attorney representing Dr. Trabucco’s ex-wife in an Indianapolis suburb. When the two alleged conspirators were originally caught in Indiana, it was Dr. Trabucco that bailed them out of jail. They absconded but were later arrested by U.S. Marshals in California and Montana. No charges have been filed against Dr. Trabucco in the case, but authorities say they are investigating his involvement.