Feds: About 3,000 'suspected victims' make new allegations against local doctor
Possible charges include causing death of patients, sexual misconduct
SAN ANTONIO – Federal prosecutors told a judge a San Antonio and Rio Grande Valley doctor may face new federal and state charges that include "fraudulently diagnosing children, causing the death of patients and sexual misconduct," a document filed Tuesday said.
Dr. Jorge Zamora-Quezada was arrested May 11. Three days later, officials released a 20-page indictment against Zamora-Quezada detailing charges of federal health care fraud, health care fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The indictment alleges Zamora-Quezada and others "falsely diagnosed vulnerable patients -- including the young, elderly and disabled from the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio and elsewhere -- with various degenerative diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis. He and his co-conspirators then administered chemotherapy and other toxic medications to patients based on that false diagnosis," the government has said.
Zamora-Quezada is accused of using his million-dollar private jet or his Maserati to go between his offices in the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio, and of using proceeds from the alleged fraud to buy private jets, luxury vehicles, high-end clothing and real estate in the United States and Mexico.
Prosecutors said last week they have turned over more than 180,000 pages of documents collected in the investigation against Zamora-Quezada. Now they said they are "developing a more complete picture of the full magnitude of Defendant's crimes" and that they have received "a staggering volume of complaints from former patients and their family members -- approximately 3,000 contacts from suspected victims of (Zamora-Quezada)."
"An alarming number of these complaints relate to the allegations that that Defendant fraudulently diagnosed young children, caused the premature death of patients through his false diagnoses and chemotherapy treatments, and touched patients in an inappropriate sexual manner," the court document alleged.
Among the examples of the complaints recently received, prosecutors include a man who was falsely diagnosed by Zamora-Quezada with rheumatoid arthritis in 2006. He "later developed burns on his skin, lost both finger and toe nails, and later began to lose his skin (apparently due to the toxic medications)," the document said. The man saw another rheumatologist, who said the man did not have the condition and was taken off the medication. Still, prosecutors said, the man's health problems continued until his death last year.
Zamora-Quezada's attorneys said that patient "was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and not with rheumatoid arthritis as the Government incorrectly alleges. If the Government is making such troubling allegations against Defendant, Zamora, then the government should at least be correct in presenting the facts to this Court."
Another patient went to Zamora-Quezada for carpal tunnel syndrome, but was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2015. She was subjected to "different medications and injections of drugs. Defendant never told (the patient) what specific drugs he was administering to her. Shortly thereafter, the health of (the patient) began to deteriorate and she lost approximately 50 pounds, was unable to walk, and could not keep her food down," the document said. The woman died six months later of reported heart attack due to organ failure.
Zamora-Quezada's attorneys challenged this claim, saying the woman had "severe rheumatoid arthritis with a positive antibody for vasculitis which has been associated with rapidly progressive renal failure," which "could have been the cause of her death. Her records show that she was not fully functional when she went to go see Defendant that she could not drive herself to her appointment, she could not get dressed on her own. The Government incorrectly alleges (the patient) went in for carpal tunnel syndrome. She went to see Defendant, Zamora, because of the weight loss, severe pain and limitations she was experiencing. From her first to her second visit, she only lost 7 pounds."
A third case involved a person who was a patient of Zamora-Quezada's from 2011-2012 and was falsely diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. That person was "subjected to extensive medical procedures and chemotherapy treatments and other medications...(his) skin changed to a grayish color, he gained nearly 100 pounds of body weight, became depressed, and experienced pain," the document said. That man was later examined by another doctor who said the patient did not have rheumatoid arthritis and that "he was lucky to be alive." That man has since "regained his general health," the document said.
Zamora-Quezada's attorney said the patient "was not diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis as the Government incorrectly states but instead was diagnosed with polyarthropaty inflammatory disease. This patient was seen only three times."
While Zamora-Quezada's attorneys have described the allegations against him as a "civil matter," prosecutors said "for every patient that Defendant falsely diagnosed and fraudulently treated, Defendant earned a profit. That is textbook health care fraud."
The FBI has said he victimized "thousands" over at least 18 years, many likely undocumented, non-English speakers. The FBI is trying to identify other possible victims of Zamora-Quezada and his co-conspirators. Anyone who was a patient of Zamora-Quezada's from 2000 through May 2018 and believes they may have been affected by his or his co-conspirators alleged crimes, can contact the FBI at 1-833-432-4873, option 8, or email the task force at ZamoraPatient@fbi.gov.
Officials said they aren't concerned about the immigration status of victims and that they won't be asked to testify if they don't want to.
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