JACKSON, Miss. — On Friday a federal judge sentenced a doctor to 20 years in jail as well as ordering her to repay nearly $8.2 million for fraud at a former Mississippi cancer center.
In a staggering criminal case, presiding Judge Daniel P. Jordan III said he was “appalled” at how Dr. Meera Sachdeva treated patients at the time when they were most vulnerable.
Among the outrages perpetrated at the Rose Cancer Clinic in Summit, different patients chemotherapy drugs were drawn from the same bag, syringes were re-used and patients were routinely overcharged — some for procedures that never took place.
As he sentenced Sachdeva, Judge Jordan III said:
“It’s a very small thing to send this woman to jail for the next 20 years when you compare it to the damage she has done.”
Sachdeva, 50, stayed silent in court on Friday. Dressed in a regulation, orange prison jumpsuit with shackles around her waist and ankles, she registered little to emotion as her sentence was handed down.
She pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud and two counts of making false statements.
Jordan also sentenced two others in the case.
Brittany McCoskey, 26, the former office manager at Rose Cancer Center, was sentenced to 13 months in prison and ordered to pay $55,069 in restitution.
McCoskey’s had pleaded guilty to a charge of making false statements.
McCoskey told the court that she had once observed a bone marrow biopsy being done in the center by a phlebotomist that should have been performed by a doctor. McCoskey said she didn’t report it to authorities because she was “afraid of losing my job.”
Prosecutors also said McCoskey falsified records and prevented nurses from calling ambulances for patients who needed emergency care. On one occasion, she even sent away a technician who turned up at the clinic to repair a vital piece of medical equipment.
“I know what I did was wrong, and if I could change all of this I would,” McCoskey sobbed in court.
Another staff member at the center, Monica Weeks, 40, who was responsible for the clinic’s billing from her Ridgeland firm, Medical Billing Group, was sentenced to three months’ house arrest plus three years’ probation and ordered to pay $19,550 in restitution.
Weeks had pleaded guilty to conspiracy.
Weeks was sentenced despite the fact that she voluntarily contacted authorities when she suspected fraud at the clinic. This was because she was involved in more than $19,000 of fraudulent billing.
Among the patients and relatives of patients who testified in court Rosetta Chairs said her older sister, Gloria Chairs, was treated there despite being incorrectly wrongly diagnosed with cancer.
Chairs told the court she believed those erroneous treatments contributed to her sister’s death earlier this year.
Sachdeva founded and ran the Rose Cancer Clinic from 2005. After 11 patients from the clinic were hospitalized with the same bacterial infection, the Health Department closed the clinic on grounds of “unsafe infection control practices.”
As a result, nearly 300 cancer patients had to be tested for infections such as HIV, although the department later said that none of the patients tested had blood-transmitted viral infections related to the clinic’s care.
Although it was suspected that the clinic dispensed watered-down medication to patients, prosecutors were unable to prove that claim in court.
Civil lawsuits have now been filed against Sachdeva in state court. One of those lawsuits alleges that at least one patient died from HIV that he contracted from the clinic at around the same time it was shut down.
Sachdeva, a naturalized citizen originally from India, has been in custody without bond since her arrest in August 2011. Considered a flight risk, Sachdeva had huge assets spanning both America and India, even the after the seizure of about $6 million.