US Attorney Reports Doctor Involved In ‘Rent-A-Patient’ Scam

A physician who was found guilty of participating in a health care fraud
scheme that led to more than $9 million in fraudulent bills being submitted for unnecessary “sweaty palm” surgeries was sentenced today to 10 years in federal prison. William W. Hampton, M.D., 53, of Cypress, was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge Audrey B. Collins. In addition to the prison term, Judge Collins ordered Hampton to pay $2,466,352 in restitution to defrauded health insurance companies.

A second doctor involved in the case, Mamdouh S. Bahna, 62, of Bel Air,
was sentenced last year to 58 months in prison. Bahna pleaded guilty one year ago to health care fraud, admitting that he used his Bel Air Surgical Institute (BASI) to fraudulently bill insurance companies more than $2.4 million for improper procedures.

Hampton participated in “rent-a-patient” schemes at numerous surgery
centers in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, including Unity Outpatient Surgery Center in Buena Park, Valley Multi-Specialty Surgery Center in Reseda, Premium Surgery Center in Huntington Beach and BASI in Beverly Hills.

Over the course of about eighteen months from October 2002 to March 2004, Hampton performed more than 400 unnecessary thoracic sympathectomy operations, commonly called
“sweaty palm surgery,” at these and other local ourtpatient surgery centers. The patients who had the surgeries were paid to undergo the surgical procedures by
so-called “marketers” hired by the surgery centers to recruit people with private
health insurance who were willing to undergo unnecessary surgical procedures in
exchange for cash or discounts on cosmetic surgery. Patients were paid up to
$1,200 to undergo sweaty palm surgery, an invasive procedure that involves
deflating the patient’s lungs and cutting or cauterizing a nerve near the spinal
Testimony at Hampton’s trial last year indicated that the marketers coached
the patients to describe false symptoms and that Hampton led them to recite
additional symptoms and exaggerated the symptoms in creating medical charts used to make the surgical procedures appear to be justified. The surgeries were billed to the patients’ health insurance providers, which paid for many of them.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated this case.

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