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For Immediate Release
May 8, 2002
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357

REGISTERED NURSE PLEADS GUILTY TO MEDICAID FRAUD AND RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT OF DIALYSIS PATIENTS

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that Paul Zakrzeski, R.N., owner of a free-standing dialysis center in Baltimore County, pled guilty in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County to one count of felony Medicaid fraud and one count of reckless endangerment of Medicaid patients. The Honorable John O. Hennegan sentenced Zakrzeski to five years in jail on each count, to run concurrently, with all but 18 months suspended, and ordered him to serve five years probation. Hennegan ordered Zakrzeski to serve an additional 18 months of home confinement after his jail term is completed. Zakrzeski was also sentenced to pay a total of $100,000 in restitution, for billing Medicaid for medications that he did not provide. In addition, Zakrzeski’s corporation, Dialysis With Heart, pled guilty to felony Medicaid fraud and was sentenced to pay a penalty of $300,000.

Zakrzeski, 49, of Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania, is a registered nurse and was the owner of Dialysis With Heart. Over a period of two-and-a-half years, Dialysis With Heart billed Medicaid and Medicare for providing a medication called epogen to Medicaid dialysis patients when, in fact, the medication was not given. According to patients, Zakrzeski made it appear as if he were providing epogen at the end of dialysis sessions when in fact he was only signing off that the medicine had been given. Epogen is a prescription medicine ordered by doctors for dialysis patients to stimulate the patients’ bone marrow to make new red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body.

Dialysis With Heart was open from February 1, 1999 through August 31, 2001. During that time, Zakrzeski’s corporation, at his direction, filed claims with Medicaid and Medicare indicating the Dialysis With Heart had administered over 29,000,000 units of epogen. Purchasing records from Dialysis With Heart show that during that same period, the company purchased less than 6,000,000 units of epogen. More specifically, during the eight month period from September, 2000 to April, 2001, Zakrzeski personally initialed billing forms showing that over 8,000,000 units of epogen had been given to Medicaid patients while his company purchased less than 400,000 units during that period.

Zakrzeski’s knowing failure to provide epogen to dialysis patients for whom a doctor had prescribed epogen as a necessary medication, created a substantial risk of death and serious injury to those patients.

In a related matter, the investigation of Dialysis With Heart also revealed that Zakrzeski purchased epogen on the "black market." Attorney General Curran announced that Thomas Guy, a dialysis technician who worked for Maryland General Hospital, plead guilty to stealing epogen from Maryland General Hospital and selling it to Zakrzeski. Epogen has a short shelf life if it is not refrigerated and the epogen Guy sold to Zakrzeski for use on Dialysis With Heart patients was not continually refrigerated. Guy pled guilty to a single count of felony theft. The Honorable Stuart R. Berger, of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, sentenced Guy to two years in jail, with all but six months suspended. Judge Berger ordered Guy to serve the remaining six months in home confinement and placed Guy on three years probation. Guy was ordered to pay $6,200 in restitution to Maryland General Hospital.

These cases were prosecuted by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Maryland Attorney General’s Office.

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