AP NEWS

Doctor and wife accused of healthcare fraud denied access to seized funds

October 5, 2018

McALLEN — The more than $400,000 seized by the government will not be returned to Dr. Jorge Zamora-Quezada and his wife Meisy Zamora who argued they needed those funds in order to afford their legal fees.

The couple, who were indicted on charges related to healthcare fraud, tried to make the case that they needed the funds to be able to pay attorneys, fees and experts needed for his defense.

However, U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa ruled against it on Thursday, citing the couple could bring in additional income to help with those expenses.

In addition to seizing their funds, the government also issued notice of intent to forfeit for properties they own in the U.S. and Mexico rendering them unable to be sold. However, Andrew Swartz, the attorney representing the government, argued the couple could rent out those properties to bring in additional income.

Begnino Martinez, the attorney for Zamora-Quezada, argued that they couldn’t “magically” force someone to rent out the property.

Still, Hinojosa said it was matter of what the law allowed and that he had to take into consideration that that additional income was potentially available to them.

The $400,000 figure, the judge added, was minuscule compared to what the government alleged the couple made from the scheme.

Swartz told the judge that in 2017 the clinic brought in more than $5 million from private and public health insurers. Of that, he said, $900,000 came from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The defense also contended some of the funds seized may not have all been connected to the medical clinic.

Attorney Christopher Sully said that Zamora had millions of dollars of her own assets stemming from a divorce settlement from a previous marriage which included vehicles, property, life insurance policies and a $6 million payout.

The proceeds from those assets, they argued in court documents, were deposited in bank accounts that were seized by the government.

Hinojosa questioned whether funds from the divorce settlement, which was finalized in 1998, would still be available to her 20 years later.

Swartz went further and argued there was no evidence she received she received $6 million and no evidence that the life insurance policies were cashed out.

But it was the possible income from renting their properties that Hinojosa made particular note of in making his decision to deny the release of the funds.

The matter considered during the hearing was whether to keep Zamora detained without bond.

Both she and her husband have been held pending trial since their arrests in late July and May, respectively.

Hinojosa had already denied the release of Zamora-Quezada and is expected to make a decision regarding Zamora no later than Wednesday of next week.

Earlier this week, two attorneys withdrew from representing Zamora-Quezada after he was heard criticizing them in a recording of a telephone conversation.

During Thursday’s hearing, the judge told the couple that the more they meet with and are open with their attorneys, the better they will be represented.

Zamora-Quezada asked if he could respond but the judge advised against it, warning that anything he said could be used against him.

However, the doctor later did get a chance to speak to his wife after a request from their attorneys who said they hadn’t spoken to each since their arrests.

After the hearing, the couple spoke for nearly five minutes as the U.S. Marshals hovered nearby.

bereniceg@themonitor.com

AP RADIO
Update hourly