A federal judge this week sentenced Dr. Roy Heilbron — a former cardiologist and “holistic” healer who practiced in Santa Fe — to more than four years in federal prison for health care fraud and obstruction of justice.
U.S. District Judge William Johnson of Albuquerque also ordered Heilbron to pay nearly $624,000 in restitution to the victims of the health care fraud.
Heilbron, 54, pleaded guilty to fraud last year in a plea deal in which prosecutors agreed to drop 23 fraud counts against him.
“I knowingly represented that patients had diagnoses and indications that the patients did not actually have,” said Heilbron in a statement signed at the time of the plea bargain.
Heilbron ran a clinic in Santa Fe called “A Well for Health Church.” His fraud charges covered a period between January 2010 and May 2011.
In addition to falsifying the medical records of his patients, he falsified his own, which led to his obstruction of justice charge.
That charge was filed after Heilbron pleaded guilty to the fraud charge last year. He had presented false documents to his federal probation officer, claiming he was receiving chemotherapy in Costa Rica for prostate cancer. He asked to delay the sentencing hearing until his cancer treatment was complete.
But federal agents determined Heilbron had faked the cancer treatment, court documents say.
Heilbron, in his postponement request, had attached documents outlining his treatment plan, claiming he was diagnosed and being treated by a “very rare” holistic urologist named Oscar Paniagua. Heilbron claimed Paniagua had offices in Florida and Costa Rica.
But FBI Special Agent Raymond Mauk wrote in an affidavit that the Florida address Heilbron provided for the doctor was not real, and that a receptionist at the clinic in Costa Rica said no doctor named Oscar Paniagua was listed in its directory. The FBI found a doctor by the same name in Texas. But when contacted, Mauk wrote, Paniagua said Heilbron was never a patient.
Mauk wrote that data on an electronic document detailing Heilbron’s treatment protocol showed Heilbron was the author of the file.
Heilbron was arrested in North Carolina in August 2017 while he was awaiting sentencing for his fraud case. He eventually admitted that he’d lied about his cancer treatment and was on vacation in Europe — and had no intention of going to Costa Rica for cancer treatment — when he requested the sentencing postponement.
A news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said that Heilbron performed and billed for “a wide array of unnecessary tests on every new patient,” submitting false diagnoses with the billing claims “to justify the tests to the insurance plans.”
According to the news release, he listed “false symptoms, observations, and diagnoses” into his patients’ medical charts and used photocopied clinical notes, diagnostic test results and ultrasound images in the patients’ charts “to create a written record of procedures that were either not performed or that had not been sufficiently documented to support the billing.”