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Government seeks to forfeit assets of Pittsford psychiatrist obtained through fraud

STAFF REPORTS

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that a civil forfeiture complaint has been filed against Dr. Muhammad A. Cheema, 45, of Pittsford, NY, to forfeit assets allegedly obtained through fraud and that were involved in money laundering.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Grace M. Carducci, who is handling the civil case, the complaint seeks the forfeiture of:
• $806,871.91 from three separate bank accounts held by the defendant;
• A 2015 Audi A8;
• A 2017 Mercedes Benz; and
• The defendant’s residence at 9 Bromsgrove Hill, in Pittsford, NY.
On July 30, 2018, Dr. Cheema, a licensed physician who provides psychiatric services at his private practice, Upstate Psychiatry in Pittsford, as well as at Rochester Regional Health, and various nursing homes, was charged by criminal complaint with health care fraud and making false statements relating to health care matters.
According to the criminal complaint, Dr. Cheema routinely billed health insurance providers the highest leve1 of evaluation and management services for new patient visits, and his medical notes were missing the documentation to support the level of evaluation and management services for his established patients. The defendant is also accused of routinely upcoding office visits of patients, improperly billing health care benefit programs for services that he did not provide, and, on more than one occasion, prescribing drugs to an undercover patient without performing an physical exam or psychotherapy.
In addition, Dr. Cheema, as alleged in the criminal complaint,  submitted a fraudulent certificate which purported to show him to be board certified in Psychiatry. In fact, the defendant was not board certified in Psychiatry, has never passed the ABPN certifying examination in Psychiatry or Neurology. The investigation determined that the document submitted by the defendant was fraudulent, and was generated on his desktop computer using a valid Certificate belonging to a psychiatrist in Arizona.
“As I stated at the time of the defendant’s arrest, our office is committed to ensuring that those who seek unjustly to enrich themselves by perpetrating frauds against the health care system are brought to justice,” said U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “While the criminal complaint holds Dr. Cheema criminally responsible for his actions, this civil complaint seeks to divest him of his ill-gotten gains.”  
The civil complaint is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert, and the New York State Department of Financial Services, under the direction of Superintendent Maria T. Vullo.
If convicted of the criminal charges, Dr. Cheema faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.