44 new defendants served by Arizona AG in fraud case against Prescott Valley eye surgeon
Updated as of Saturday, January 18, 2020 8:45 PM
PHOENIX – Attorney General Mark Brnovich has served an additional 44 summonses on current or former employees of the Kokopelli Eye Institute in the case against Prescott Valley Dr. Michael Lee Ham.
Ham, an eye surgeon with Kokopelli, was indicted on Jan. 2 for an alleged fraudulent billing scheme.
Agents with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have been working to locate and serve the indicted defendants, the AG’s office states in a Jan. 16 news release. Many of the defendants are charged with conspiracy and with fraudulent schemes and artifices, while others also face charges of illegally conducting an enterprise, participating in a criminal syndicate and theft.
The indictment, dated Dec. 23, 2019, indicates all 44 of the new defendants face felony charges.
It is alleged the additional defendants assisted Ham in a variety of ways to falsify patients’ medical records for the purpose of inducing government agencies and third-party insurers to pay for cataract and other eye surgeries on patients of Kokopelli Eye Care from 2009 through the fall 2018, the AG’s office reported. It is possible some patients had cataract surgeries that were not medically necessary.
Defendant Laura Crain, a long-time employee of Kokopelli Eye Institute, is also charged with facilitation to commit fraudulent schemes and artifices, and with criminal impersonation for her alleged participation in illegally obtaining a prescription-only drug at the direction of Ham, the news release states. It is alleged that Crain, in conjunction with Ham, obtained medication from a pharmacy in Prescott Valley in August and November 2016 under the name of a person who did not consent to, nor was aware of, a prescription being written in her name.
Ham was arrested on Jan. 2 in Prescott Valley. He appeared in court for his arraignment on Monday, Jan. 13, in Yavapai County Superior Court. He is charged with conspiracy, fraudulent schemes and artifices, illegal control of an enterprise, theft, and money laundering violations for allegedly defrauding Medicare, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), as well as several private health insurers, according to the AG’s news release.
The indictment follows a multi-agency investigation conducted by the Special Investigations Section of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and AHCCCS, the AG’s office reported. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, also assisted. The investigation and prosecution of this case arose from a report to the Prescott office of the Health Care Fraud & Abuse Section of the Attorney General’s Office.
CLICK HERE to see the indictment.
In response to the indictment, Kokopelli Eye Institute released the following statement on Friday, Jan. 17:
"Dr. Michael Ham is a longstanding and trusted caregiver in the community for more than 20 years. At Kokopelli Eye Institute, patients are our number one priority. We remain open and our medical staff, including Dr. Ham, continues to provide quality care for our patients. We will vigorously oppose these charges and we believe we will ultimately be vindicated. For more information visit Kokopellieyecare.com."
Information provided by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.
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