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November 22, 2014

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State identifies doctors under federal investigation

Sun Coverage

State officials have identified six Las Vegas doctors, including two prominent physicians, under federal investigation for alleged violations of the law that guides a program that brings foreign doctors to medically needy communities.

Christine Roden, who manages the so-called J-1 visa waiver program for the Nevada State Health Division, said the Department of Homeland Security is investigating whether the doctors sponsored the visa paperwork and hired foreign physicians to work in medically needy communities, but then reassigned them to work in affluent areas not listed in their visa applications.

Roden said Department of Homeland Security subpoenaed records for six employers:

• Dr. Rachakonda D. Prabhu, a pulmonologist who built his practice with the labor of dozens of doctors involved in the J-1 program. Prabhu, who in November attended President Barack Obama’s first state dinner at the White House, denies there is any investigation and would not comment for this story.

• Dr. Sherif Abdou, one of the founders of Summit Medical Group and the current president and CEO of Healthcare Partners of Nevada. Abdou told the Sun in October 2007 that it’s possible he broke federal law because he never intended for the foreign doctors he hired to work in the underserved clinics. Abdou did not return calls for this story.

• Dr. Abdul Siddiqui, an internist who said last week that he was not able to abide by the terms of the J-1 program because it wasn’t viable financially.

• Dr. Nutan Parikh, an oncologist who hired four foreign doctors to work in Pahrump, then also assigned them to work extra hours in Las Vegas hospitals.

His former employees told the Sun in 2007 that the doctors never worked the required amount of time in the Pahrump clinic. Parikh said last week he tried to ensure the doctors abided by the terms of the program, but it may not have happened all the time.

The two other doctors whose files were subpoenaed by the feds are Dr. David Ezeanolue and Dr. Dhiresh Joshi. Roden said she discovered during her site inspections that they were not following the guidelines for the program.

Joshi did not return the Sun’s call for a comment for this story. Ezeanolue said he had heard of no investigation and that he has since been absolved of any allegations of wrongdoing by amending his visa application to show all the locations where his employee-doctor was working.

Roden said she met with the Homeland Security investigator and he said that certain employers failed to list the addresses where the J-1 doctors were employed on their visa applications.

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