A former San Diego-based psychiatrist was sentenced Monday to nearly two years in federal prison for defrauding TRICARE, the military's health insurance provider.
Marco Antonio Chavez, a 40-year-old who now lives in Brownsville, Texas, was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution of more than $783,000, according to federal prosecutors.
Chavez's license to practice medicine in California was suspended in May 2018, and is set to be revoked later this month. The suspension was due to Chavez practicing medicine in 2018 while his blood-alcohol content was above 0.2 percent, according to state medical board records.
According to federal prosecutors, Chavez was a licensed psychiatrist who provided treatment to children and adult patients covered by TRICARE.
"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," the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California said in a news release.
According to prosecutors, Chavez saw one patient only three times, but billed TRICARE as if he'd seen the patient 80 times.
"He swindled more than $783,000 from the taxpayer-funded health care program, and used these ill-gotten gains to buy himself luxuries including a red 2016 Jaguar and thousands of dollars' worth of David Yurman jewelry," prosecutors said.
Chavez's attorney, Stephen Lemish, said his client expressed "a lot of remorse" Monday, and that he's spent his time since moving to Texas doing "a lot of volunteer work."
In 2018, Chavez's state medical license was suspended when a state investigator found him drunk at work, with his "office in complete disarray" while patients were waiting to see him.
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