Unusual transactions alleged in healthcare fraud trial

The focus of the trial for Dr. Jorge Zamora Quezada and his co-defendants turned to money laundering of which the rheumatologist is being accused as part of a larger alleged healthcare scheme.

A former employee of Zamora Quezada’s testified Thursday morning about working as the facilities coordinator for the doctor.

Javier Sartorio, who worked for Zamora Quezada from about March to December 2005, was tasked with overseeing the construction and design of the doctor’s San Antonio facility and oversee maintenance for the other facilities which included the Edinburg and Brownsville clinics.

However, he said he left his employment because he was concerned about the clinic’s operations. He currently works in aviation architecture in Houston.

Zamora Quezada, a rheumatologist, is currently on trial for allegations that he participated in a scheme to defraud health insurers by misdiagnosing and over-treating patients.

Co-defendants in the case are his wife, Meisy Zamora, and two of their employees, Estella Santos Natera and Felix Ramos. They are accused of also participating 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.

Sartorio said Zamora Quezada asked him to look into property in Del Rio, Laredo and Corpus Christi as possible locations for future clinics.

He said the doctor wanted to open clinics in underserved areas where the main insurer would be Medicare and there would be no competition.

He also testified that Meisy Zamora wanted to open a real estate company but Sartorio said he didn’t want to be involved because he thought it was a way of laundering the money and didn’t want to have anything to do with it.

Sartorio also spoke of the doctor’s various cars which he said included a porsche, Mazdas, a Mercedes, and a special edition Jaguar. He also noted that they would travel often, going on cruises or taking trips to Aspen, the Caribbean, and Puerto Vallarta.

When asked about the doctor’s private jet, which the doctor is said to have used to travel to and from his clinic in San Antonio, Sartorio said it was the doctor’s pride. He added that Zamora Quezada was interested in creating a fleet of private jets to charter people to Mexico for the purposes of “boutique,” or concierge, medicine and that the doctor said he would get the funds to purchase the jets through the clinic.

He also recalled an instance when they needed a permit for their Brownsville clinic but the doctor didn’t want to obtain the permit, according to Sartorio. When Sartorio pushed for it, he said Zamora called him a nerd and told him to turn the project over to Ramos.

However, Sartorio testified that Ramos approached him with $20,000 in cash to get the job done to which Sartorio told him to “do his own dirty work.”

On another occasion, Ramos approached him with $40,000 in cash to pay a contractor.

“It felt like a drug deal,” Sartorio said, and said he, again, told Ramos to do his own dirty work.

During his time working with Zamora Quezada, Sartorio said he would often have dinners with him. On one such occasion, the topic of previous investigations into the doctor’s practices came up. He allegedly said that if he were under investigation by law enforcement, “he wouldn’t stick around,” Sartorio said.

Sartorio said that Zamora Quezada later told him not to speak to law enforcement and wanted him to sign a non-disclosure agreement which he refused.

Upon questioning by the defense, Sartorio acknowledged he had no evidence to corroborate that large amounts of cash were offered to him and did not have a copy of the non-disclosure agreement he was asked to sign.

When asked if he had a problem with people making money, opening clinics, and spending money, Sartorio responded that if it was done illegitimately, he did.

Testimony in the trial is scheduled to continue Friday morning.