Home News Stories 2006 April U.S. Doctor Caught in South Africa
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U.S. Doctor Caught in South Africa

The Real-Life Fugitive
U.S. Doctor Caught in South Africa


Globe with special agent badgeWhen an Atlanta doctor fled federal fraud charges in the U.S. last April, he probably thought he’d be safe from the law some 8,000 miles away.

Wrong! Thanks to FBI agents in our Los Angeles office, the international crime-fighting body called Interpol, and colleagues in Australia and South Africa, the doctor is now back in the U.S. awaiting trial.

Here’s the story. In March 2005, the doctor (who previously practiced in California) was indicted along with nine others for his alleged role in billing Medicare for more than $24 million. Four of these individuals were convicted earlier this month.

Their alleged scheme? Prescribe medically unnecessary—and expensive—equipment like motorized wheelchairs and a nutrition supplement used in tube feeding, all charged to Medicare. The equipment was purchased from a medical supply company in Huntington Beach, California, run by another suspected member of the operation who was indicted along with the doctor.

How’d we get wind of the bogus claims? Medicare noticed that the company was submitting exorbitant claims for enteral nutrition products and that nearly all the claims were signed by two doctors. Medicare had also received more than 300 patient complaints about the supply company for unnecessary items or for items that were never delivered. So Medicare officials gave us a call…and our investigation led to the eventual indictments.

The doctor in question was scheduled to appear in court last April 11. But two days earlier, he hopped on a plane and left town. Our agents in Los Angeles immediately requested that Interpol issue what’s called a “Red Notice,” which alerted the 184 Interpol member countries that the doctor was a fugitive and wanted for prosecution.

Hot on his heels. We suspected the doctor was probably hiding in South Africa, where he once lived. We alerted South African police of our suspicions, and authorities said they’d keep an eye out for the wanted fugitive.

Then, we got a break. The doctor, using a South African travel agent, forwarded his U.S. passport to Australian officials to get a visa. Australian officials saw the Red Notice and immediately contacted our Legal Attaché office in Pretoria, South Africa, one of more than 50 around the globe.

We provided South African authorities with the address from the visa application. They took it from there, tracking the doctor down on December 23, hiding in the bathroom of a house in the Western Cape Province. Then—after the invaluable administrative assistance of the U.S. Consulate in Cape Town—they escorted him back to Atlanta, where he was turned over to the custody of U.S. Marshals.

The moral of the story? In this age of growing international travel and globalization, no one agency and no one country can go it alone when it comes to bringing criminals and terrorists to justice. That’s why we value our law enforcement partnerships around the world more than ever.

Visit our Legat page for more information about our international presence.