A previous Temecula medical doctor was sentenced Thursday, April 28, to approximately eight many years in federal jail for defrauding Medicare and jeopardizing client safety in varicose vein therapies.
Donald Woo Lee, 55, carried out unwanted vein ablation strategies and reused contaminated catheters on people, which set them at danger of an infection and other bodily injury. He also submitted untrue declarations in a bankruptcy proceeding, according to prosecutors with the U.S. Office of Justice.
A jury convicted Lee in October 2019. Federal prosecutors claimed that from August 2012 to August 2015, Lee billed Medicare $12.4 million for the unneeded surgical procedures and was paid $4.5 million by the government wellbeing insurance plan method.
Lee was arrested in 2016 in a nationwide overall health fraud crackdown that federal authorities say included 301 defendants and $900 million in phony billings. He also had been implicated in a grand theft and cash laundering situation in 2014 involving fraudulent commercial financial loans.
Lee’s lawyer, Thomas Ryu, reported in a phone job interview Thursday that prosecutors at first wished Lee to provide 10 decades in federal prison, but settled for just less than eight, producing him eligible for parole in a very little more than 5 several years.
“Ultimately, it arrived down to 93 months. We received about a 25% reduction on the sentencing,” reported Ryu, who together with attorney Joseph A. Weimortz Jr., defended Lee at trial.
According to the federal authorities, Lee recruited Medicare beneficiaries to his clinics, then falsely diagnosed them to get them to concur to the vein ablation remedies. He made use of inappropriate billing codes on his Medicare invoices to boost the amount of money he would be reimbursed, a follow recognized as “upcoding.”
Support from patients
Ryu stated out of 333 affected individual files, investigators randomly selected 35 of these documents from Lee for overview, and only 5 patients testified at demo that the vein ablation processes were avoidable.
“The prosecution built it audio like each individual solitary a person of the strategies were being fraudulent,” Ryu explained, incorporating that 140 of Lee’s sufferers signed letters supporting Lee, vouching for his honesty and trustworthiness.
“We have a letter from a former patient who claimed Lee saved her life with his varicose vein therapy mainly because her toes ended up turning black,” Ryu explained.
‘Confusion’ on Medicare billing
He mentioned there was “a large amount of confusion” on the Medicare billing difficulty, and that Lee was utilizing the codes he considered had been required to go over the charge of both equally the catheters and the vein ablation surgeries.
“Medicare needed health professionals to use this one particular billing code which didn’t even address the cost of the catheter,” Ryu stated.
The court docket also took into thing to consider Lee’s professional-bono humanitarian operates throughout the planet, like healthcare missionary work in Burma, Ryu mentioned.
Lee pleaded responsible on March 2, 2020, to 1 count of submitting wrong declarations in a individual bankruptcy proceeding. In addition to his jail expression, Lee also must serve three a long time of supervised release and was requested to fork out more than $4.5 million in restitution to Medicare.
Pursuing his conviction, and whilst he was awaiting sentencing, Lee allegedly assisted Newport Seashore Dr. Jennifer “Jen” Armstrong, of the “Real Housewives of Orange County” forged, with facial thread lifts. Lee performed the strategies on at the very least a person of Armstrong’s patients, even while his license was revoked and the affected person was unaware of that point, according to a lawsuit submitted in Orange County Outstanding Court docket.
In an job interview with the Southern California News Group in January, Lee denied owning labored on any of Armstrong’s people, but did say he properly trained Armstrong in beauty thread raise processes in 2019 and early 2020.
“I went above there and I taught her how to do the education,” Lee explained in January. “I have not carried out any processes on sufferers. She did all the fingers-on.”