Federal authorities tried unsuccessfully Monday to incarcerate a Dickinson-based doctor while they adjudicate his case, asserting he has been billing Medicare for services he didn’t perform while free on bond.
“He remains on bond,” said Angela Dodge, spokeswoman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, toward the end of the day Monday.
Dodge’s comments came hours after a judge heard arguments about revoking bond and jailing Dr. Gary Spangler, of Texas City.
A federal grand jury in March 2018 indicted Spangler on one count of health care fraud and several counts of wire fraud and money laundering, alleging he tried to defraud Medicare by billing for unnecessary chelation therapy, federal authorities said.
His attorney, Houston-based Wendell Odom, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Spangler owns and operates several health care businesses, including Spangler Medical Enterprises PA, which operates as Bay Area House Calls in Dickinson, Dodge said.
While federal authorities pursued the case, however, they allowed Spangler to continue to practice medicine so long as he didn’t bill Medicare for chelation procedures, U.S. Attorney Jim McAlister wrote in a motion to revoke Spangler’s bond.
“However, the United States has probable cause to believe that Dr. Spangler continues to defraud Medicare by billing for services that he did not perform, and that Dr. Spangler is making referrals to home health and hospice providers without a proper patient examination, as required by Medicare regulations,” according to the motion to revoke bond.
Between Spangler’s indictment in March and November 2018, he referred 214 patients to home health services — unusual because he doesn’t have a history of it — and sometimes traveled to eight locations a day and billed more than 10 hours for services, the motion asserts.
“This data is common for practitioners involved in ‘kick-back’ schemes because a home health agency simply pays the doctor to certify new patients that have no history with the physician,” the motion asserts.
The motion also asserts federal authorities have opened a new investigation into Spangler’s activities.
Spangler was initially indicted in connection to his use of chelation therapy, which has been used for many years as a treatment for mercury and lead poisoning.
In chelation therapy, medical professionals deliver a dose of a medication called ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid into a patient’s bloodstream through an intravenous line, according to the Mayo Clinic, an academic medical center based in Rochester, Minnesota.
This medication seeks out and binds to minerals in the bloodstream. Once the medication binds to the minerals, it creates a compound that leaves the body in your urine, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The Federal Drug Administration has long approved chelation as a treatment for removing heavy metals from blood, but in recent years, some doctors have asserted the therapy might be useful in preventing cardiovascular disease.
Spangler is accused of asking his staff to order blood tests and administer chelation therapy to patients who didn’t have toxic levels of lead in order to bill Medicare and Medicaid for the services, according to a March indictment filed against him.
Spangler billed Medicare more than $69 million for unnecessary chelation therapy between 2011 and 2017 and received more than $13.2 million from Medicare and $112,000 from Medicaid based on the false claims, Dodge said.