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Accountant testifies for defense in Zamora Quezada trial

A certified public accountant testified Thursday regarding financial transactions of the Center for Arthritis & Osteoporosis, the clinic owned by Dr. Jorge Zamora Quezada whose trial is entering its final days.

Mariela Ruiz, a certified public accountant and a professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, testified about the flow of funds from the clinic to other entities.

Zamora Quezada, a rheumatologist, is alleged to have participated in a scheme to defraud health insurers by misdiagnosing and over-treating patients.

Co-defendants in the case are his wife, Meisy Zamora, and two of their employees, Estella Santos Natera and Felix Ramos. They are accused of also participating in the scheme which allegedly included tampering with medical records and money laundering to conceal the source of the funds they made from the alleged scheme.

Another CPA, Michael Petron, of a Washington, D.C.-based investment banking and management consulting firm, testified for government, describing how the funds that Zamora Quezada’s clinic received from insurers flowed through the clinic and then from one bank account to another. The funds were then used, at least in part, for personal expenses.

Ruiz, however, said it was common for operators of medical clinics to have multiple entities — one which was the clinic itself and a separate entity to manage their real estate, like Zamora Quezada did.

She also said it was common for the clinic, as an entity to have multiple accounts and for funds to be transferred between those accounts and transferred to accounts from another entity.

Defense Attorney Jaime Peña, who is representing Ramos, addressed Petron’s testimony that the defendants used a corporate American Express card for personal expenses.

Ruiz, however, testified that it wasn’t necessarily improper because the clinic employed CPA firms that are meant to keep track to make sure their expenses are properly accounted for.

Peña then addressed the allegation that the defendants funneled money to Mexico through a money exchange to conceal their source. To that, Ruiz said that records of those transactions link directly back to the clinic and therefore this process would be the opposite of concealment.

She also said the bulk of transactions to Mexico were done through checks and therefore were easy to track.

Ruiz was the last to testify Thursday, following four former patients of Zamora Quezada who testified that they were satisfied with the treatment they received from the doctor and would continue to see him if they could.

A former employee, Blanca Gonzalez, who worked in several positions before become the front office supervisor, testified earlier in the day.

Gonzalez said that during their supervisory meetings, the supervisors discussed patient flow in regards to minimizing wait times for the patients.

She said she never heard anyone talk about quotas, disputing the testimony of other former employees who testified for the government, and said there wasn’t a mandatory number of patients that they were asked to see per day.

Under questioning by government, Gonzalez acknowledged she was never in the exam room when Zamora Quezada saw patients and doesn’t have knowledge of whether his diagnoses were correct or incorrect.

The defense is scheduled to call more witnesses when the trial continues Friday morning.

Written by
Berenice Garcia - The Monitor