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Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said today that they have shut down the As Soon As Possible Medical Center in San Leandro, calling it a “bogus medical center.” O’Malley also said her office has filed felony criminal charges against Dr. Sultan Said Hamid, who worked at the clinic, alleging that he committed insurance fraud, perjury, filed false documents and conspired to dispense prescription drugs and controlled substances through non-authorized personnel. Prosecutors said Hamid was dispensing drugs such as muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory agents and creams to patients who did not need them. O’Malley and Jones said they have closed the closed the center’s facility at 1460 150th Ave. in San Leandro as well as its other clinics in Hayward, Vacaville and Fairfield.
They said in a statement that the settlement of a civil action against the medical center following a two-year joint investigation completes their efforts “to close this illegal medical practice, stop its unscrupulous medical practices and secure restitution for years of abusive billing practices.” O’Malley and Jones said Thomas Vamvouris set up the corporation in 2004 with Hamid as a 51 percent owner and Vamvouris as only a 49 percent owner, but prosecutors alleged that arrangement was a “sham” and Vamvouris was in fact the majority owner, violating California law requiring a medical professional to be the primary owner of a medical facility. The facility employed Hamid as well as acupuncturists and chiropractors. It primarily handled worker compensation and automobile accident patients. Prosecutors said Vamvouris has agreed to pay $450,000 in penalties, costs and restitution and will be prohibited from owning similar facilities in the future. No criminal charges are pending against Vamvouris.
Jones said, “Medical providers who game the health care system to gain an unfair advantage through abusive and unscrupulous billing practices will be investigated by my department.” O’Malley said, “Ensuring safe and ethical medical practices in
our community is a priority of my office. We will continue to partner with local agencies as well as with the Department of Insurance to investigate and prosecute medical professionals who violate the law by unethical billing and prescription schemes. Vamvouris’ attorney, Daniel Horowitz, said, “The district attorney’s office acted very reasonably” in reaching the settlement with Vamvouris and balances the risk that prosecutors had of losing their case with the risk that Vamvouris had of facing a larger financial penalty. Horowitz said the statute governing the relationship between medical centers and doctors and chiropractors “is very vague” and has “a vast gray space” that leaves practitioners without clear guidance. Horowitz said Vamvouris was only prosecuted in a civil case and doesn’t face criminal charges because he wasn’t aware of what Hamid was doing.
The defense attorney said Vamvouris was in the process of getting out of the business when the investigation into the medical center began. Hamid’s attorney, Ivan Golde, said there’s “a fine line” between right and wrong when doctors issue prescriptions and if Hamid engaged in any questionable conduct it would be more appropriate for him to be investigated by the state medical board than to be prosecuted. Golde said the district attorney’s office sent undercover investigators to Hamid’s office and investigated him for more than a year. He said, “I question the whole practice of sending undercover persons to a doctor’s office.” Golde said, “We’ll see what the evidence shows” as the criminal case moves forward.
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