Auburn cardiologist indicted for implanting unnecessary stents - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Auburn cardiologist indicted for implanting unnecessary stents

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Dr. John Mitchell (Source: EAMC website) Dr. John Mitchell (Source: EAMC website)
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

A federal grand jury in Montgomery handed down a 10-count indictment Friday against an Auburn cardiologist who is accused of implanting unnecessary stents in patients' hearts for financial gain.

The indictment was confirmed in a statement released by the U.S. Attorney's office.

Dr. John W. Mitchell is said to have performed cardiac catheterizations on patients from at least January 2006 to February 2012 during which times he is alleged to have falsely recorded the existence or extent of coronary artery blockages in the patients' medical records. A coronary stent is not considered medically necessary unless a patient is diagnosed with a blockage of at least 70 percent.

Investigators say Mitchell sought to increase his profit margin by performing the operations and then submitting false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies.

[DOCUMENT: Mitchell indictment (.pdf)]

The doctor issued a statement following the indictment that reads:

"I am disappointed that the government has chosen to bring untrue charges against me. For nearly 30 years, I have faithfully served patients in the Auburn-Opelika area and I am proud of my record. In all my years of practice, I have performed a procedure only if I believed it to be medically necessary and in the best interest of my patient. Ever since I started the heart program at EAMC in 1985, my practice has been built on doing what is best for my patients. I have taken care of patients from all walks of life whether or not they have the ability to pay. Taking care of patients is my life's calling and I would never betray the trust of the patients who have come to me for care.  The charges that the government has brought against me are false. I look forward to my day in court and the opportunity to clear my name."

Mitchell has a private medical practice known some times as The Heart Center Cardiology, and at other times as the Institute for Advanced Cardiovascular Care, located in Auburn, Alabama. He also had hospital privileges at East Alabama Medical Center ("EAMC") in Opelika. 

East Alabama Medical Center issued its own statement following the indictment. It reads:

"EAMC is committed to providing high quality, appropriate and compassionate healthcare and to foster a culture of compliance and accountability. As such, EAMC was suprised and disappointed to learn that Dr. John Mitchell has been charged with Medicare fraud. It's important to remember, however, that Dr. Mitchell is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and we fully respect that process.

Dr. Mitchell has had medical privileges at EAMC since 1985 and has skillfully treated many patients in our community. That makes these allegations truly unfortunate.

EAMC remains 100 percent commited to providing world class cardiology care, and to complying with all applicable laws and regulations. EAMC has been cooperative with authorities and will continue to cooperate fully in this process."

According to the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners and Medical Licensure Commission, Mitchell still has his license. Officials say they will conduct their own investigation, and typically do not revoke a license prior to a conviction.

If convicted, Mitchell faces a maximum 10 years in prison on each of two healthcare fraud counts and five years in prison on each of the eight counts of making false statements related to healthcare matters.

The U.S. Attorney's office says in addition to federal charges, the 10-count indictment also seeks forfeiture of $450,000 related to the alleged healthcare scheme and false entries.

The case was investigated by the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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