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Healthcare

Twin Brothers Plead Guilty to $45 Million Healthcare Fraud

After a history of discipline from the Texas Medical Board, Drs. Desi and Deno Barroga admitted to fraudulently billing as many as 80 injections per patient daily.
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Drs. Desi and Deno Barroga pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud after faking injections on patients to rack up fraudulent bills. The twin brothers and pain management doctors admitted to conspiring to defraud Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and United Healthcare by submitting claims for steroid injections that were never administered. 

After being indicted in November and initially pleading not guilty, the two pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count each of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. 

The fraudulent scheme required patients receiving addictive Schedule II controlled substances like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine to submit to monthly office visits, which the doctors used to justify billing for expensive treatments never administered. 

At times, the brothers reported that they performed as many as 80 corticosteroid injections per patient per visit, even though they were never administered. In some cases, the doctor would pretend to give a shot by putting the needle on the patient’s body without piercing the skin. Court records show that the clinic sometimes billed more than $4,000 for services on a single day for one patient.

Fake medical records codified the fraud, often cut and pasted from one patient to the next with no variation. Additionally, the brothers told patients to make false statements about their treatments for the medical record. The brothers admitted to billing insurance for $45 million and receiving $9 million as part of the scheme. 

The brothers both have a history of discipline from the Texas Medical Board. Dr. Deno Barroga, who is pictured cuddling with a cheetah on his Yelp page, was accused of improperly prescribing controlled substances to patients in 2015. As a result, his practice had to be monitored by another physician, and he had to take a professional development course on physician prescribing.

In 2018, Deno was accused in a State Board of Administrative Hearing document of failing to assess and treat a patient who died from a drug overdose from the controlled substances he prescribed the patient. According to the SBOA documents, he diagnosed a woman in her 30s with stenosis and degenerative joint disease without support in his medical records, and even though the patient said she suffered from depression and was already using narcotics and psychiatric medications, he prescribed her Oxycontin and Percocet without consulting the patient’s psychiatrist. When Barroga learned the patient had received a prescription for other medicines in violation of the controlled substances contract, he allegedly took no action.

In 2021, the Texas Medical Board assigned Desi Barroga 16 hours of continuing education after it was determined that he failed to keep an adequate medical record, including issues with examination details and the rationale for prescription, which included a fentanyl patch for at least one patient.

The twins now face up to 10 years in federal prison.

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Will Maddox

Will Maddox

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Will is the senior writer for D CEO magazine and the editor of D CEO Healthcare. He's written about healthcare…
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