Maryland Diagnostic Firm Misreading X-Rays May Have Contributed to Four Deaths

The owners of an imaging firm in Maryland, Alpha Diagnostics, face charges of health care fraud over failure to properly read x-rays and other tests, which law enforcement officials indicate may have resulted in at least four patient deaths. 

The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Friday that Rafael Chikvashvili, 67, has been indicted on multiple charges, including health care fraud resulting in serious bodily harm or death. The indictment was handed down on April 9 by a federal grand jury.

The FBI and Justice Department officials first indicted Chikvashvili, owner of Alpha Diagnostics LLC, last year, following an investigation of charges that he filed false Medicare and Medicaid claims from 1997 to October 2013. The grand jury has added new charges to the original indictment.

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Chikvashvili now faces four charges of health care fraud resulting in serious bodily harm or death, in addition to wire fraud and conspiracy charges. He faces 33 counts in all.

Alpha Diagnostics, LLC was a portable diagnostics service provider based in Owings Mill, Maryland and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. According to law enforcement officials, Chikvashvili and Alpha Diagnostics’ Vice President Timothy Emeigh conspired together to file false radiology, ultrasound and cardiologic reports in an effort to defraud Medicare and Medicaid. They told Medicare, Medicaid and doctors that the tests had been interpreted by licensed physicians and made insurance claims for reports that were never actually done, or were in excess of the number of tests the treating physicians ordered for their patients.

At one point, Justice Department investigators say Chikvashvili texted Emeigh and asked him to create fake physician interpretation reports on his laptop while he was vacationing in Jamaica, among other incidents. Chikvashvili, who only holds a doctorate in math and is not a medical doctor, also allegedly forged doctors’ signatures personally.

As a result of the misread x-rays and other diagnostic tests, law enforcement officials indicate that there have been a number patients who received a medical misdiagnosis, with at least four deaths that may have been caused by untrained practitioners. All four deaths resulted when the allegedly unlicensed results examiners missed crucial information when reviewing patients’ tests. The deaths were linked to undiagnosed cases of congestive heart failure, a large pelvic mass, and pneumonia.

The indictment calls for forfeiture of at least $7.5 million. This includes at least two properties, luxury vehicles, bank accounts and other resources. Emeigh has already plead guilty to health care fraud.

Chikvashvili has maintained his innocence.

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