Dr. Shiva Akula, a long-time New Orleans physician, who was indicted on 23 counts of alleged Medicare fraud on August 6, 2021, vents frustration that Louisiana Attorney General (and candidate for Governor) Jeff Landry is stonewalling an investigation into an alleged $300,000+ payroll fraud which Akula asserts was committed by one or more disgruntled employees whom Akula alleges served as the sources for Federal prosecutors to procure what Akula asserts are bogus Medicare fraud charges against him.
On Friday, August 6, 2021, Dr. Shiva Akula, a long-time New Orleans physician, was indicted by a Federal grand jury which charged him with 23 counts of Medicare fraud. [Note: CLICK HERE for the actual grand jury indictment charges].
We find particularly noteworthy that, of the 23 counts, 15 are for average amounts of $140.20 each, for a total of those 15 counts being $2,103.
Once the remaining eight (8) counts are tabulated, the total amount of alleged fraud is $114,626. The U. S. Government admits this alleged fraud is out of $63+ million in billings and $47+ million in payments to Dr. Akula from January of 2013 through December of 2019. By our math, that makes an alleged fraud rate (based on actual payments made) of 0.24 percent.
Dr. Akula has consistently maintained his steadfast innocence to all charges, and he goes further to allege that he was targeted after receiving a rather substantial payment from the U. S. Government about a decade ago for a settlement of prior Medicare discrepancies for which he was owed recovery.
On Wednesday, April 26, 2023, Dr. Akula sat down with Belinda Parker Brown of Louisiana United International to discuss what Akula alleges is recently-uncovered evidence of $300,000+ of payroll fraud for which Attorney General (and candidate for Governor) Jeff Landry has kept tied up for 18 months notwithstanding Akula’s contention that Landry’s investigative team indicated to an associate eight months ago that arrest(s) would be forthcoming soon. Let’s take a look at this fascinating interview:
April 26, 2023: LUI Founder Belinda Parker Brown interviews Dr. Akula about allegations that Attorney General (and candidate for Louisiana Governor) Jeff Landry is stonewalling allegations that Akula’s company was the victim of over $300,000 in payroll fraud he alleges was committed by “disgruntled former employees” who then conspired with Assistant U. S. Attorney Kathryn McHugh to falsely accuse him of counts of Medicare fraud.
As stated on the interview, Akula, on March 23, 2023, filed this Motion to Disqualify Assistant U. S. Attorney Kathryn McHugh as a result of alleged attempted ex parte communications and a “lack of candor” to a Federal Judge.
It should be noted that, included within the just-linked Motion, which Akula filed pro se, is this January 26, 2022 Minute Entry and Amended Order in which Federal Judge Karen Wells Roby did in fact admonished McHugh for demonstrating a “lack of candor” to the Court and also for attempting to engage in ex parte communications on the criminal case pending against Akula.
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of Akula’s Motion to Disqualify McHugh (though we would strongly recommend clicking on the link and reading the entire document, as we found it to be an utterly fascinating read — ignore the numbers that appear to the left of the paragraphs)!:
NOW INTO COURT, Defendant, SHIVA AK.ULA, (“Dr. Akula”), moves to Disqualify AUSA Kathryn McHugh, and states as follows:
Assistant United States Attorney Kathryn McHugh must be recused, disqualified, and prevented from any further investigation or prosecution involving this matter.
A pattern of prosecutorial misconduct by McHugh has been pervasive and present in these proceedings from the get go.
Dr. Akula has acquired evidence that McHugh has been directing one of Dr. Akula’s employees to retrieve information from Canon Hospice, by stealing information and providing it to McHugh illegally, without the authority of a search warrant.
First, in August 2021, it was a one page document. This one page document, dubbed as the “Press Release”, 1 was at all times the property of Canon Hospice. See Exhibit 1. At the direction and instruction by McHugh to an unknown employee at Canon Hospice, this one page document was delivered to McHugh. McHugh then used this Press Release to issue grand jury subpoenas to the physician advocacy group which drafted the Press Release for the benefit of Dr. Akula.
Then, most recently, on March 7, 2023, after Dr. Akula was provided for the first time with the government’s discovery, through Stephen Shapiro, in reviewing the discovery, Dr. Akula uncovered personal handwritten notes of Dr. Akula himself, that also appear to have been illegally and without the authority of a search warrant, removed from his office and delivered to McHugh. See Exhibit 2. The time frame of the handwritten notes (Exhibit 2) and the one page Press Release (Exhibit 1) appear to be the same- after the indictment and around the time of “detention” hearing. It appears that the government turned around and produced these handwritten notes to Dr. Akula inadvertently.
McHugh has exhibited a deeply concerning lack of candor and persistence to present false information to the court and/or the grand jury which has reached a prohibitive level for her to continue as a prosecutor in this case.
- In 2013, an unprecedented settlement was reached between Akula and the Department of Justice where, not Dr. Akula, but the DOJ settled claims that were filed against it for attorneys’ fees requiring the DOJ to pay Dr. Akula the total sum of $704,881.58 in Canon Health Care v. Kathleen Sebelies 2:12-cv-02120. See Exhibit 2. Dr. Akula was represented by Attorney Les Johnson in this settled case.
- Immediately after this settlement, in fact, almost instantly, and in retaliation, an audit notification was sent to Canon Hospice for hundreds of patients which ultimately culminated in the criminal investigation that then led to the instant indictment against Dr. Akula.
- On April 17, 2018, relying on the audits that were sent out immediately after the settlement of $704,881.58, the FBI executed a search warrant at the Canon hospice facility in South Shore, seizing patient records, billing records, and a large number of emails consisting of attorney-client communications between Dr. Akula and his own in-house counsel, Les Johnson.
- From 2018 through 2021, Senior Prosecutor Patrice Sullivan was in charge of the Akula criminal investigation. Under Senior Prosecutor Sullivan, and pursuant to extensive grand jury subpoenas, there were two failed true bills by the grand jury.
- After Sullivan left the Eastern District of Louisiana, at a time when there was a widely known internal reorganization at the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Junior Prosecutor, Kathryn McHugh was assigned to Dr. Akula’s case.
- On July 29, 2021, Akula authorized PAA to contact McHugh so that a meeting between Dr. Akula and PAA can occur in which explanations and clarifications could be provided to the government regarding numerous misconceptions by McHugh. See Exhibit 4.
- McHugh did not respond to PAA’s outreach efforts and within just a few days of the attempt to set up a meeting, on August 5, 2021, McHugh filed her indictment against Dr. Akula, alleging 23 counts of healthcare fraud. Doc 1.
- The government then issued its DOJ press release regarding Akula. about July 2021, Akula heard of a physician advocacy group, known as Physicians Against Abuse, (“PAA”). After contacting the group, Dr. Akula realized that he definitely needed to see the government’s purported evidence that established guilt on his part. Dr. Akula also realized that it appeared that the government did not understand fully that Dr. Akula was not the provider for any of the patients subject of the indictment as these hospice patients received their medical care directly from a third party group, Ochsner Physicians. In fact, Dr. Akula was not involved in making the decision of what medical care was delivered and therefore what billing was used for any of the patients which was being investigated by the government. See Exhibit 5.
- PAA responded in kind and drafted its Press Release. See Exhibit 1.
Although the Press Release never made it to the media, it was highly critical of McHugh. PAA’s release was only provided internally to a single Canon Hospice employee. Next thing, McHugh had obtained a copy of this internal document, without the authority of a search warrant.
- PAA’s Press Release was a turning point for McHugh as it converted this prosecution to one that became personal for McHugh.
- To serve her revenge for the unpleasant comments about McHugh in PAA’s Press Release, McHugh fabricated lies that PAA and its Board Member, Christina Paylan Black (“Dr. Black”) were purportedly engaging in witness tampering. McHugh made up these lies so she could use grand jury subpoena power to acquire all communications between Dr. Akula and PAA and Dr. Black.
- PAA’s Press Release about McHugh was on August 6, 2021, and on August 12, 2021, Black and PAA were served with grand jury subpoenas by McHugh where the subpoenas were delivered by United States Marshall to Dr. Black at her private residence in Treasure Island, Florida. 2
- Subsequently, McHugh communicated to PAA’s counsel that she was pursuing witness intimidation charges against Akula, Dr. Black and PAA based on this Press Release, threatening Dr. Akula with more charges, and threatening Dr. Black and PAA with criminal investigation and prosecution. See Exhibit 6: Affidavit of Christina Black, MD.
- But McHugh was so adamant that Judge Roby know the so-called “background truth” about Black, that McHugh did the unthinkable by contacting Judge Roby’s chambers, ex parte, to tell her to contact another judicial officer, Judge Ashe before whom the grand jury subpoenas were being litigated. McHugh also relayed to Judge Roby, ex parte, to check not just Dr. Black’s background but also PAA’s website.3
- Based on McHugh’ s ex parte contact, Judge Roby was concerned about McHugh’s unethical conduct, and expressed her concerns in her order as follows:
“Interestingly the government, despite its request to conduct research and submit a memorandum supporting its position that Dr. Black and Mr. Ohanian should not be granted authority to access the documents via the protective order, failed to do so.
Oddly, and without response by the Court, on Tuesday, January 24, 2022, AUSA McHugh telephoned chambers and suggested that the undersigned speak to another district judge in the Court regarding information about Dr. Black which the undersigned remains unaware of. Finding the behavior inappropriate, and a possible attempt to have an ex parte communication with the Court, or to influence the Court’s decision, the undersigned ignored the call, took no action, and prepared for the status conference.
McHugh also lacked candor by only disclosing that Dr. Black was involved in a press release leak and suggesting that there was an attempted to intimidate witnesses. AUSA McHugh clearly knew that the Court was being mislead and filed Isic] to correct the falsity.
Finally, and most concerning is AUSA McHugh’s call to chambers suggesting the undersigned contact another judicial officer to obtain information regarding Dr. Black. See Exhibit 7: Order by Judge Roby.”
Judge Roby’s January 2022 order outlining McHugh’s highly unethical behavior lacking candor with the Court, failing to correct falsity presented to the Court, would have called for permanent removal of any prosecutor in most United States Attorneys’ offices in the country. However, in the Eastern District of Louisiana, this kind of unethical conduct is apparently punishable only by a 6-month removal from the post at EDLA where McHugh was sent to Washington D.C. for a period of 6- months. At some point during the course of this 6-month removal from her post, McHugh herself claimed to Cassidy that she was sent to work on a “project”.
McHugh’s behavior, lack of candor and persistent representation of false facts to this Court along with her unconventional arrangements for an unidentified employee or employees to steal documents that are the property of Canon without the lawful authority of a search warrant, have all significantly interfered with orderly progress and disposition in this case denying Dr. Akula his due process right to a normal, disinterested and ethical prosecutor.
Based on the foregoing facts and the existing law on prosecutorial disqualification, the grounds for McHugh’s disqualification has been met.
WHEREFORE, Defendant, SHIVA AKULA, respectfully requests that this Court issue an Order Disqualifying AUSA Kathryn McHugh, prohibiting her from being involved further in any investigation or prosecution in any manner connected to Dr. Akula, and grant any other relief as the Court may deem just and proper.
Here is the link for the Physicians Against Abuse website which McHugh apparently harbored such concern over that she would stoop to the lengths of attempting ex parte communications to alert another judge of the group’s existence!
Here are the latest filings on the matter:
Document # 193 filed on April 11, 2023: Order continuing trial date from June 12, 2023 to July 10, 2023.
Document # 194 filed on April 11, 2023: Order referring Akula’s Motion to Amend Protective Order to Magistrate Judge.
Document # 195 filed on April 12, 2023: Government’s Opposition to Akula’s Motions
Document # 196 filed on April 11, 2023: Order denying Akula’s Omnibus Motion to Compel.
Document # 197 filed on April 20, 2023: Akula’s Objections to Magistrate’s Denial (Doc 196).
Document # 198 filed on April 20, 2023: Order deeming Akula’s prior Objections to Protective Order effectively filed April 26, 2023.
Document # 199 filed on April 24, 2023: Order for Government to file Response to Akula’s Objections by May 5, 2023.
Document # 200 filed on April 25, 2023: Akula’s Reply on Motion to Modify Protective Order and Request for a Hearing.
That’s the most recent filings.
Now, as if all of that wasn’t enough, there are two other civil lawsuits entailing all of the above. We’ll capture only the essence and current standing of each.
There is a lawsuit filed by Ochsner Clinic Foundation against Akula and his company, Canon Hospice, in 24th JDC in Jefferson Parish. The suit alleges $461,182.81 in unpaid lease payments prior to Ochsner and Akula reaching agreement for him to vacate the Fourth Floor of his prior office located at 1221 South Clearview Parkway in Jefferson, Louisiana.
Akula has countersued Ochsner alleging that it failed to provide documentation pertinent to their agreement and that it (or agents acting on its behalf), “improperly certified and admitted patients for the hospice stays.” Akula alleges that, Ochsner’s “unprofessionalism,” ultimately, “led to a criminal investigation against Plaintiff-in-reconvention (Akula) for failure to discharge patients in a timely manner for which it has never been responsible under the Associate Medical Directorship Agreement.”
On December 7, 2022, Akula fired his attorney in that civil matter, W. J. LeBlanc, Jr., and soon thereafter, retired Judge Morris W. Reed, Sr. enrolled as counsel of record. He asserted that LeBlanc’s answers were, “woefully inadequate.” He requested a 60-day period to familiarize himself fully with the case, and Defendants’ various Exceptions (seven individuals, to include six doctors, were also named as Defendants-in-Reconvention) were reset to April 18, 2023. Here are the results of that April 18, 2023 hearing:
|MINUTE ENTERED FOR 04/18/2023 (PEREMPTORY EXCEPTION OF NO CAUSE OF ACTION —- –OTHER;DENIED)(DILATORY EXCEPTION OF NON-CONFORMITY OF THE PETITION —- –OTHER;GRANTED. COURT WILL ALLOW CANNON HOSPICE, D-1, 60 DAYS IN WHICH TO AMEND THEIR PLEADINGS )(DILATORY EXCEPTION OF VAGUENESS AND AMBIGUITY —- –OTHER;GRANTED. COURT WILL ALLOW CANNON HOSPICE, D-1, 60 DAYS IN WHICH TO AMEND THEIR PLEADINGS )(DECLINATORY EXCEPTION OF INSUFFICIENCY OF CITATION AND SERVICE OF PROCESS —- –OTHER;GRANTED. COURT WILL ALLOW CANNON HOSPICE, D-1, 60 DAYS IN WHICH TO AMEND THEIR PLEADINGS AND MAKE PROPER SERVICE)(PEREMPTORY EXCEPTION OF NO CAUSE OF ACTION —- –OTHER;DENIED)(DILATORY EXCEPTION OF NON-CONFORMITY OF THE PETITION —- –OTHER;GRANTED. COURT WILL ALLOW CANNON HOSPICE, D-1, 60 DAYS IN WHICH TO AMEND THEIR PLEADINGS )(DILATORY EXCEPTION OF VAGUENESS AND AMBIGUITY —- –OTHER;GRANTED. COURT WILL ALLOW CANNON HOSPICE, D-1, 60 DAYS IN WHICH TO AMEND THEIR PLEADINGS )|
While we obviously weren’t at that April 18, 2023 hearing, somehow we’re willing to bet the judge overseeing the case didn’t threaten Dr. Akula with sanctions in the form of attorney fees the way Judge Vincent Borne did with Billy Broussard on February 15, 2023 if Broussard dared to amend his petition (and the exception be re-urged and deemed not to be cured via amendment) as the Judge has permitted Akula to do above! As we’ve stated previously, we’ve attended tons of hearings for Rules to Show Cause, with at least 700 of them entailing Peremptory Exceptions, and Borne is the first judge we’ve ever seen make a less-than-subtle threat entailing attorney fees!
The last lawsuit entailing Dr. Akula is a Federal suit filed by him in Florida alleging a RICO scheme to essentially drive him straight out of business. The matter was transferred to the Federal Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. In the most recent filing in that case, which was filed on April 17, 2023, Akula is provided until Wednesday, May 3, 2023 to amend his Petition and include a RICO Case statement.
Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns is inclined to directly compare this case to one he worked on for months while serving as an FDIC fraud examiner; however, because of the length of this feature, he’ll postpone doing so for a couple of weeks and produce that feature as a follow-up to this one. Also, as stated on the video above, we certainly intend to attend Dr. Akula’s criminal trial in July if it in fact does commence at that time.
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