A Napa doctor has agreed this month to pay the U.S. government $400,000 to settle allegations that he filed false claims for Medicare reimbursement,. The agreement with Ali Vaziri, M.D., a gastroenterologist, settles the civil allegations but it provides that , while agreeing to pay the $400,000, Vaziri does not admit to any liability. Vaziri is a board-certified gastroenterologist with a practice called the “Center For Digestive & Liver” in Napa.
Federal attorneys said that between 2007 and 2011, Vaziri billed Medicare for patient office visits that were longer and included more services than the consultations he actually provided. He was also alleged to have billed separately for office visits that were required to be billed together with colonoscopies.
Vaziri, a 1990 graduate of the Tufts University School of Medicine, has faced a number of legal challenges in recent years.
In June 2015, the Medical Board of California placed Vaziri on seven years’ probation and prohibited him from supervising physician assistants because of a criminal conviction for tax fraud.
In June 2014, Vaziri was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison for tax fraud after cheating the IRS of more than $116,700, according to federal prosecutors. Vaziri, who was indicted in 2012, served his sentence at a federal facility in Lompoc, said his attorney, Malcolm Segal of Sacramento, in a 2015 interview.
The physician was sentenced under a plea agreement reached in early 2014, when he agreed to plead guilty to four counts of filing false income tax returns between 2005 and 2008. The charges were filed in connection with income and expenses from his medical practice. In 2005, Vaziri falsely inflated his business expenses, causing the IRS to lose $14,535 in taxes and then repeated the fraud for the next three years, underpaying $60,620 in 2006, $27,476 in 2007 and $14,072 in 2008, according to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.
In exchange for his guilty plea, entered in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, federal officials dropped health care fraud allegations.
Vaziri attracted the attention of federal officials beginning in June 2009 when he was suspected of overbilling and falsely billing Medicare, according to a sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors. As the investigation progressed, federal investigators delved into potential income tax fraud. In June, 2012 he was was charged by a federal grand jury in San Francisco with nine counts of health care fraud and six counts of filing a false federal income tax return.
“Dr. Vaziri will be fully permitted to practice medicine. Any restrictions will not impede his ability to practice,” said Segal according to the 2015 report in the Napa Valley Register.