Last week ten prominent physicians wrote a letter to Columbia University calling the school’s employment of heart surgeon and television personality Mehmet Oz “unacceptable” in light of Oz’s frequent endorsement of dubious weight-loss pills and other products with no known medical value. In an April 17 blog post, one Oz critic who didn’t sign the letter noted that some of those who did were affiliated with a controversial group called the American Council on Science and Health, which accepts corporate funding and has been described as “pro-industry.” (As in pro-pharmaceutical industry, pro-agribusiness industry, etc. Dr. Oz has been criticized for unsupported skeptcism of certain agricultral practices.)
As it turns out, one of the ACSH signatories—Gilbert Ross, its executive director—spent time prison on Medicaid-fraud charges. From Mother Jones:
Instead of tending to patients, Ross spent all of 1996 at a federal prison camp in Schuylkill, Pennsylvania, having being sentenced to 46 months in prison for his participation in a scheme that ultimately defrauded New York’s Medicaid program of approximately $8 million. During a three-and-a-half-week jury trial, federal prosecutors laid bare Ross’ participation in an enterprise, headed by one Mohammed Sohail Khan, to operate four sham medical clinics in New York City. For his scam to work, Khan needed doctors who could qualify as Medicaid providers, and Ross responded to an ad in the New York Times promising “Very, very good $$.”
The clinics reportedly scammed the government by conducting (and being reimbursed for) unnecessary procedures and tests on “indigent patients.” In addition to the prison sentence, Ross had his medical license revoked (it has since been reinstated). He began working for the ACSH in 1998.