California doctor reused catheters and made millions on bogus procedures, feds say

A Southern California doctor was found guilty on Wednesday of performing unnecessary vein procedures and giving his patients contaminated but repackaged single-use catheters.

Following a six-day trial, a federal grand jury convicted Dr. Donald Woo Lee, 54, of Temecula on seven counts of health care fraud and one count of adulterating a medical device, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release Thursday. His sentencing is scheduled for March.

“Lee submitted claims of approximately $12 million to Medicare for the vein ablation procedures he performed, and received $4.5 million as a result, the evidence showed,” prosecutors said.

Lee operated clinics in Temecula and Mira Loma, according to court records.

Lee’s scheme went on from 2012 to 2015, according to the Justice Department, as he recruited patients on Medicare at his clinics and wrongly diagnosed them with “venous insufficiency” — which he gave them unneeded “vein ablation procedures” to treat.

Next, Lee used an inappropriate Medicare code to get a heftier reimbursement from the government, prosecutors said.

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Court records explain that a patient with varicose veins will sometimes have “venous reflux, that is, a condition in which blood in the patient’s veins (flows) wrongly away from the heart rather than toward the heart … In such situations, a vein ablation procedure (is) used to treat potentially significant health issues arising from the condition.”

Prosecutors accused Lee of performing multiple vein ablations on patients over the course of many visits to maximize the amount he could bill to Medicare.

The Justice Department said the catheters Lee repackaged “had been cleared by the FDA for marketing as single-use only.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.