(Story updated at 12:15 p.m. ET, Friday, Nov. 11)
A Maryland cardiologist convicted of implanting more than 100 unneeded heart stents and altering patient records to justify the surgeries has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison and ordered to pay back $579,000 in restitution, the U.S. Justice Department said.
John R. McLean, 59, of Salisbury, Md., was convicted in July
of six counts of healthcare fraud following a two-week trial on accusations that he billed Medicare and Medicaid for medically unnecessary surgeries and follow-up treatments. He had faced up to 10 years in prison for the convictions.
“Placing unnecessary stents in the hearts of patients is a crime of unthinkable proportions,” Nicholas DiGiulio, special agent in charge of HHS' inspector general's office, said in a news release.
McLean saw the patients at his private practice as well as at 408-bed Peninsula Regional Medical Center, both in Salisbury, between April 2003 and December 2006.
Hospital officials said in a statement it would be inappropriate for them to comment on McLean's conviction or sentencing, because they were not a party to the criminal case.
In August officials at Peninsula Regional agreed to pay $1.8 million
and submit to a corporate integrity agreement over allegations that the hospital failed to stop McLean's illicit surgeries.
The hospital said in a statement that the payment resolved a civil claim alleging that some patients may have had unnecessary heart stents implanted by McLean, who resigned his medical privileges at the hospital in March 2007 after questions arose about his stenting practices.
"Working with the government and fully cooperating with all reviews has culminated in an agreement that strengthens our compliance program," Peninsula Regional President and CEO Peggy Naleppa said in a statement. "Our standards of accountability were exhaustively reviewed, enhanced, and are now more comprehensive than at any time in our 114 year history."