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Dr. Marco Antonio Chavez was sentenced to 21 months in custody and ordered to pay restitution of $783,764.37 for defrauding TRICARE, the health care benefits program for military service members and their dependents.

Chavez was a physician licensed by the State of California who provided psychiatry services, including therapy and prescription medications for children and adults diagnosed with ADHD and depression, for San Diego patients. He is a 2006 graduate of the University of Texas Medical School.

Chavez defrauded TRICARE by using the personal information of these patients to create and submit false and fraudulent claims for nonexistent appointments when he did not actually treat those patients. And he routinely selected the billing code for the highest-level (and highest-reimbursement) patient visit for these fabricated appointments, to maximize the fraudulent reimbursements he received from TRICARE.

Chavez became a network provider for TRICARE in 2013 under contract with United Health Care Military & Veterans, West. That August, Chavez became eligible to submit claims directly to TRICARE through XPressClaim (“XPC”), a web-based system. Chavez used that access to help his scheme to defraud TRICARE, using his unique personal security key code to avoid review by other billing staff. He then caused the payments to be electronically transferred into an account that was in his name, which he controlled.

Chavez tried to deflect attention and avoid detection of his fraudulent billing through a variety of deceptive means. For example, he notified patients that they might see entries on their Explanation of Benefit (“EOB”) forms from TRICARE that they would not recognize. This was an attempt to prevent patients from complaining to TRICARE and drawing attention to the false bills. In reality, Chavez knew that the reason the patients would not recognize the entries on their EOBs was because they had not actually occurred – Chavez had simply made them up.

When the TRICARE contractor conducted an audit and requested certain of Chavez’s patient files, Chavez falsely claimed that he had already sent the files, when he knew those files did not exist and could not have been sent. Chavez also misrepresented that a member of the office staff had stolen his TRICARE checks and deposited them without his permission.

Over the course of his scheme, Chavez submitted approximately $928,800 in false and fraudulent claims to TRICARE via XPC, and was paid $783,764.37 on those claims by TRICARE.

Separately, records of the State of California reflect that Chavez’s medical license was suspended in May 2018, upon the finding of an administrative judge that Chavez had treated patients while under the influence of a narcotic or alcohol.