Zamora Quezada convicted on multiple counts of healthcare fraud; wife acquitted

McALLEN — A jury found Dr. Jorge Zamora Quezada guilty of healthcare fraud Wednesday following a month-long trial during which the government presented evidence alleging he intentionally misdiagnosed patients for profit.

The Edinburg-based rheumatologist was convicted of counts 1 through 11 of the superseding indictment, with the exception of count 5, in which he was found not guilty, and count 10, which was dismissed before the start of deliberations.

Counts 1 and 11 against Zamora Quezada were for conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and for conspiracy to obstruct justice, respectively; while counts 2 through 9 were for healthcare fraud.

The jury deliberated for about 12 hours over the course of two days. U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez accepted the jury’s verdict, sitting in for fellow Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa who presided over the trial but was out of town Wednesday. Hinojosa however, was present for the verdict via telephone.

Hinojosa scheduled the doctor’s sentencing for 9:30 a.m. Friday, March 27.

Zamora Quezada, 63, was arrested in May 2018 on allegations he participated in a scheme to defraud health insurers by misdiagnosing and over-treating patients.

Meisy Zamora, his wife, and two of their former employees — Estella Santos Natera and Felix Ramos — were later arrested on allegations they participated in the scheme, which allegedly included tampering with medical records and money laundering to conceal the source of the funds they made from the alleged scheme.

Meisy Zamora, wife of Dr. Zamora-Quezada, walks out of federal court after being found not guilty on health care fraud on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Zamora and Natera were both charged with the first count, conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, and were found not guilty.

Ramos, represented by attorney Jaime Peña, was dropped from the case Monday morning after Hinojosa found the government did not present enough evidence during the trial to support count 10, the charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, the only count in the indictment with which Ramos was charged.

Following the verdict, Natera said she was happy that the truth came out.

“We’ve been through a lot,” she said, standing alongside her husband, “But I leave everything in God’s hands.”

Meisy Zamora left the federal courthouse about an hour after the verdict, no longer bound by restrictions set by the court.

Her attorney, Christopher Sully, said the outcome was bittersweet because they were hoping the doctor would also be acquitted.

“It’s kind of rough because on the one hand, it’s great for Mrs. Zamora but it’s also a little bit hard on her because it’s her husband and obviously we were hoping for a different result,” Sully said.

Sully said the situation had been difficult for Zamora even before her own arrest in July 2018 as she still had to grapple with the arrest of her husband just a few months prior.

Upon her arrest, she was initially ordered held without bond and remained in custody for over a year before she was finally allowed supervised release in November 2019.

“She’s really a person of faith,” Sully said. “Her view is basically that God has a plan for everything and even though this isn’t what she or her family wanted, that everything is working out.”

Sully said the matter of the Zamoras’ seized assets is still pending before the court and said he anticipated that would be settled sometime before Zamora Quezada’s sentencing or during sentencing.

“Especially since they’re married but one of them was found not guilty,” Sully said. “So that’s going to be part of the process and we may be involved doing that, sort of indirectly, because obviously it’s both of theirs. A lot of the property belongs to both of them.”

One of the doctor’s attorneys, Trey Martinez, one of the attorneys representing Zamora Quezada, said he respectfully disagreed with the jury’s decision and said their findings were surprising in a lot of ways given the evidence they presented.

“This was a long case, it was drawn out,” Martinez said, “we feel that we presented plenty of evidence in regards to the doctor’s innocence and we’re just going to continue to take some of these issues before the court.”

Later that afternoon, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas issued a statement on the verdict.

“The conduct in this case was heinous,” stated Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

He continued, “Dr. Zamora-Quezada falsely diagnosed vulnerable patients, including the young, elderly and disabled, with life-long diseases requiring invasive treatments that those patients did not in fact need.”

“Today’s guilty verdict shows that the Department of Justice will work tirelessly to protect the public from unscrupulous medical professionals who greedily line their own pockets at the expense of their patients’ health and safety.”