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Doctor found guilty of health care fraud

US attorneys: Dr. David M. Pon operated 2 medical offices during scheme

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A federal jury found a doctor guilty Tuesday of 20 counts of health care fraud connected to his scheme to defraud the Medicare program, according to U.S. attorneys.

Dr. David M. Pon, 57, of Windermere, faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison for each count, U.S. attorneys said.

According to testimony and evidence presented during the past four weeks, Pon intentionally and fraudulently misdiagnosed more than 500 Medicare beneficiaries as suffering from wet macular degeneration, a degenerative and incurable disease.

U.S. attorneys said Pon then used his false diagnoses to bill the Medicare program for unnecessary diagnostic testing and unwarranted laser treatments.

"Misdiagnosing patients to provide invasive, potentially harmful services just to falsely bill Medicare is unconscionable," Special Agent in Charge Shimon Richmond said. "HHS-OIG will vehemently investigate those who would harm our seniors and steal from the Medicare program."

In connection with the unnecessary testing, Pon injected his victims with various dyes that posed potential serious health risks, including cardiac arrest, U.S. attorneys said.

Several of the misdiagnosed patients testified and described the significant emotional impact the false diagnosis had on their lives, including the fear of going blind as a result of the disease, according to U.S. attorneys.

Pon operated two medical offices during the scheme to defraud Medicare, one in Leesburg and another in Orlando, U.S. attorneys said.

"Protecting seniors from fraud is a top priority of our office," U.S. attorney A. Lee Bentley III said. "The fraud committed by Dr. Pon, a well-trained ophthalmologist, was particularly egregious. He abused his position of trust and falsely diagnosed hundreds of Medicare patients with wet macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease that can lead to blindness. He instilled fear in his victims, performed unnecessary and sometimes dangerous medical procedures on their eyes, and asked the taxpayers of this country to pick up the tab."

Following the jury's verdict, the court remanded Pon to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. U.S. attorneys said his sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 14, 2016.

Pon was indicted April 24, 2014.