Retired Ashland cardiologist gets five years in prison for fraud

Dr. Richard E. Paulus (Ashland Daily Independent file photo)
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A retired Ashland cardiologist has been sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $1.1 million in restitution after being convicted two and a half years ago of doing hundreds of unnecessary heart operations.

Dr. Richard E. Paulus, 71, who practiced at King’s Daughters Medical Center, “billed more to Medicare for certain heart procedures than any cardiologist in the country from 2006 through 2011, according to a court record,”reports Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader. “The hospital paid him a total of $10 million between 2009 and mid-2013, when Paulus retired, according to court records.”

U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning sentenced Paulus May 2. Bunning could have imposed a 10-year sentence or placed Paulus on probation, which his lawyers requested. “Defense attorneys plan to ask that he be allowed to remain free on bond pending an appeal,” Estep reports.

“The sentencing comes after Bunning turned down three separate requests by Paulus for a new trial,” following his conviction in October 2016, reports Mike James of the Ashland Daily Independent. “It follows a dizzying succession of legal events — Paulus’s indictment, trial and conviction were followed by Bunning’s reversal of the verdict and then by an appeals court reinstating the conviction and sending the matter back to Bunning. Based on the appeals court ruling, Bunning ruled against a new trial and scheduled the sentencing.”

James reports, “Evidence at his trial showed he performed numerous invasive heart procedures on patients who did not need them, and to justify the procedures he falsified medical records to exaggerate their medical condition and to make it appear that the heart procedures were necessary and qualified for payment.” Estep reports, “The jury ruled Paulus put false information in patients’ records saying they had more severe blockages than tests showed, in order to justify putting stents in them.”

In asking for probation, Paulus’s attorneys said “he had provided years of selfless service to patients and the community,” Estep writes. “Paulus worked fanatical hours to help patients, never inquired about someone’s ability to pay and often treated people free of charge, his defense attorneys said. One former co-worker said Paulus wore shoes held together with duct tape for a year because he was too busy to get a new pair, his attorneys said.”