The business of chemotherapy treatment for arthritis has been good to Jorge Zamora-Quezada.
The Texas doctor took to the air on his six-seat Eclipse 500 business jet, bought with some of the $50 million he was paid since 2000 administering a host of treatments to countless patients.
And on land, Zamora-Quezada, 61, roared between various homes and properties in South Texas in his blue 2017 Maserati Granturismo Coupe.
But the Justice Department has alleged that he bankrolled his “lavish” lifestyle by performing unnecessary procedures and prescribing costly medication to, potentially, thousands of patients.
Investigators have said that he and co-conspirators took part in a $240 million health-care fraud scheme and international money-laundering operation funded by excessive and unwarranted medical procedures – including treatment for children and the elderly.
The seven-count indictment against Zamora-Quezada could land him in prison for decades.
“His patients trusted him and presumed his integrity; in return he allegedly engaged in a scheme of false diagnoses and bogus courses of treatment … with no regard for patient well-being,” C.J. Porter, a special agent with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, said in a Monday statement.
Zamora-Quezada is in custody, and a court date has been set for July 2, Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas Oxman said Thursday.
The unsealed indictment says Zamora-Quezada owned medical practices in Brownsville, Edinberg and San Antonio, primarily practicing rheumatology.
But various shell organizations were built to obscure the flow of money stemming from excessive and fraudulent treatments, the indictment said.
Zamora-Quezada focused on treating rheumatoid arthritis, the indictment said. The disorder causes the immune system to mistakenly attack tissue and can be treated with various medications and chemotherapy drugs – which involve toxins that can damage healthy cells.
It is unclear how many patients could be affected. The indictment notes more than a dozen people but also notes the doctor stashed thousands of medical records in a dilapidated barn concealed from Medicare oversight.
ProPublica found that he saw more than 1,500 patients in 2015 alone and was paid $1,672 per patient – well above the $955 average in Texas.
A call to a phone number listed under Zamora-Quezada went unanswered, as did one of his Edinburg practice, Arthritis Ost.
Nora Rodriguez, a patient of Zamora-Quezada, told CNN that he yelled and threw her out of his office after she questioned his treatment.
“He kept getting upset when I was asking him why I was feeling worse and not getting better,” she said.
He is also accused of falsifying records to show that his patients were having more pain than they described, and he hid documents from other doctors who saw the same patients for a second opinion. The indictment does not specify who his alleged co-conspirators are or their role in the scheme.
Zamora-Quezada’s plane and Maserati have been seized by authorities, along with the various real estate properties that investigators allege he used to rent out, under the appearance of generating legal income.
Properties in Texas, Colorado and California were among those seized, in addition to a pair of penthouses in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Zamora-Quezada is not new to scrutiny.
In 2006, the Texas Medical Board accused him of prescribing a drug “inconsistent with public health and welfare” and of “billing for treatment that was improper, unreasonable, or medically or clinically unnecessary,” the Dallas News reported in 2010.
Zamora-Quezada later settled for a public reprimand, monitoring by other doctors and a $30,000 fine.
He had received $42,450 over a span of a year from Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company, the Dallas Morning News reported, citing ProPublica data. Eli Lilly did not respond to questions on Zamora-Quezada’s total revenue from the company or why he was paid by it.
He was also accused of sexually assaulting four former employees.
A Yellow Pages review of his practice in 2015 is foreboding in retrospect.
“Dr. Zamora has no time for returning patients only for new ones … be prepared to wait for hours because [they] overbook people like crazy. JUST DON’T GO!!”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)