Austin Doctor Heads to Prison for Health Care Fraud
HOUSTON—Dr. Dennis B. Barson Jr., 42, has been ordered to federal prison following his convictions related to a conspiracy to defraud Medicare of $2.1 million in less than two months, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. A federal jury convicted Barson and his medical clinic administrator, Dario Juarez, 55, on Nov. 5, 2014, of all 20 counts charged. Co-defendant Edgar Shakbazyan entered a guilty plea to the 21-count indictment on Oct. 27, 2014.
Today, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon, who presided over the trial, handed Barson, of Austin, a total sentence of 120 months in prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. He was further ordered to pay restitution of approximately $1.2 million.
Shakbazyan, of Glendale, California, was sentenced to 97 months in prison, while Juarez, of Beeville, received 130 months. Both will also serve three years of supervised release.
At trial, prosecutors proved the fraudulent billing was for rectal sensation tests and electromyogram (EMG) studies of the anal or urethral sphincter which were never performed. Barson, Juarez and Shakbazyan were convicted of health care fraud for filing false claims with Medicare for medical procedures which were never performed. Shakbazyan was additionally charged, and convicted, of conspiracy to pay kickbacks for payments made to recruiters and beneficiaries.
According to the testimony at trial, Barson was the only doctor affiliated with the medical clinic located at 8470 Gulf Freeway in Houston. It was Juarez, however, who represented himself to be a doctor and was the one who actually saw patients, according to the trial testimony. Barson, Juarez and Shakbazyan caused Medicare to be billed for procedures on 429 patients in just two months. The three men also billed Medicare for seeing more than 100 patients on 13 different days, including a high of 156 patients on July 13, 2009.
Barson’s defense attempted to convince the jury that he was a victim of identity theft and was not the perpetrator of the crimes. They did not believe his story and found him guilty as charged.
Barson and Shakbazyan were permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. Juarez remains in the custody of the U.S. Marshal on unrelated criminal charges.
The criminal charges are the result of a joint investigation conducted by agents of the FBI, Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Al Balboni and Adrienne Frazior prosecuted the case.