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Former Ogdensburg doctor charged with health care fraud

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Lying on an application could cost a person his job or even his career, but for a former Ogdensburg doctor, it might mean years in federal prison.

Fitzgerald A. Hudson pleaded not guilty last week in U.S. District Court, Buffalo, to health care fraud charges that carry up to 10 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Mr. Hudson, 51, Dearborn Heights, Mich., is accused of illegally practicing medicine while billing Medicare about $200,000 from August 2008 to August 2010, just weeks after leaving Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, where he worked in the emergency room.

Mr. Hudson was fired from Claxton-Hepburn for providing substandard medical care, including allowing a patient with chest pains and abnormal electrocardiogram readings to go untreated for hours. Hiring documents from a future employer of his indicate, however, that Mr. Hudson said he left the job in Ogdensburg because of the long commute.

Claxton-Hepburn officials were not available for comment.

Mr. Hudson later worked at Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville and Nicholas H. Noyes Memorial Hospital in Dansville. It was his work in Dansville that formed the basis of the fraud charges. Mr. Hudson is accused of receiving Medicare payments for work he did with a fraudulently obtained license.

His New York license was revoked in May 2010 because of poor performance, according to the state Department of Health.

Mr. Hudson also practiced medicine in Michigan until his license in that state was suspended in August of that year.

Mr. Hudson obtained his New York medical license in October 2007 after listing on his application that he graduated from York University-Facility of Science and Engineering.

The complaint alleges that Mr. Hudson was never awarded a degree from that school.

Department of Health officials say Mr. Hudson never should have received a license.

Licenses “were issued by the state Education Department,” said Peter M. Constantakes, a DOH spokesman. “We had oversight of him.”

A spokesman for the Education Department, which issues medical licenses, said there is a verification process for each candidate.

“We base our licensing decisions on nationally accepted objective measures of competence, and we require direct source verification of virtually every part of the license process,” Jonathan Burman wrote in an email.

Mr. Burman said he will contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office to confirm that its information on Mr. Hudson is consistent with the Department of Education. He declined further comment.

Mr. Hudson also failed to list that he was dismissed from the Warren Hospital Family Practice residency program in July 2003.

In documents, he wrote that he left because he was not compatible with the program. But his supervisor said it was for performance reasons, the complaint alleges.

David Budz, an FBI special agent working in Buffalo, where Mr. Hudson appeared in federal court last Wednesday, told the Toronto Star that the case is “egregious.”

“You’re defrauding insurance companies because you’re not a licensed practitioner that can bill,” he told the newspaper.

“Plus you’re causing the potential for severe patient harm.”

Mr. Hudson’s attorney, Rafael Villarruel, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

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