A Florida doctor allegedly defrauded Medicare, Medicaid and other health insurance programs for more than $26 million, which he pocketed to fund his political ambitions in Ghana, according to federal prosecutors.
Dr. Moses D. Degraft-Johnson pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to several criminal charges, including health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
Degraft-Johnson, who headed the Heart and Vascular Institute of Northern Florida in Tallahassee, filed false claims to health insurance agencies between September 21, 2015 and February 4 of this year, collecting payments for medical procedures he claimed to have performed but never did, investigators with the Department of Health and Human Services found.
The doctor falsely claimed to have performed more than 3,600 atherectomies, a minimally invasive surgery that clears out arteries. He also fraudulently billed insurers for angioplasties, a similar procedure.
“He used his access to the hospital’s daily census to poach patients for his scheme to defraud, instructing his staff to cold call patients from the hospital so that he could use their presence to fraudulently bill health care programs,” prosecutors stated in court filings.
Prosecutors said Degraft-Johnson said his “ultimate long-term professional goal” was to become president of Ghana. He had “been hard at work using the proceeds of fraud in the United States to establish an empire in a foreign country,” according to court documents. Investigators discovered that a relative of Degraft-Johnson held the office of vice president of Ghana in the 1980s.
The doctor also traveled to Ghana and other countries while claiming to be in his office performing the procedures, and sent about $1.8 million to people in Ghana, according to the Associated Press.
Prosecutors deemed Degraft-Johnson a flight risk because of his foreign ambitions, and the judge agreed, ordering him to be kept in custody until his trial begins on March 23.