Two charged for violating Iran embargo

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IOL news may 16 gavel_nov 15 INLSA

McAllen, Texas - A Texas couple accused of violating a U.S. trade embargo with Iran also face federal charges that they defrauded government and private health care programs of more than $1.5 million.

Dr. Hossein Lahiji and his wife, Najmeh Vahid Lahiji, a lawyer who ran his office, allegedly sought reimbursement for services not performed, including when Lahiji was travelling in Iran, according to a new indictment returned Thursday.

They are charged with health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Prosecutors say Lahiji reported treating as many as 117 patients a day and on multiple occasions billing more hours than exist in a day.

At least twice, Lahiji was travelling in Iran when someone in his office provided a chemotherapy injection used to treat prostate cancer that the Food and Drug Administration says must be supervised by a physician, the indictment said. Lahiji billed as if he had performed it himself.

Lahiji placed patients “at risk of physical danger,” according to the indictment.

The couple also was indicted in Oregon in 2010 for giving more than $1.8 million to the Oregon branch of an Iranian children's charity that sent the money to Iran. Prosecutors say the transactions violated the trade embargo against Iran. Their donations were used to make investments in Iran that they retained control over, according to the indictment.

They were charged with defrauding the U.S. Treasury and money laundering. They have denied the allegations. Their attorneys did not immediately return calls for comment Friday. Trial in that case was scheduled for early next year.

Prosecutors say the Texas and Oregon charges are not related. - Sapa-AP

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