Tuesday, June 13, 2017
CAMDEN, N.J. – A doctor and his chiropractor son today admitted conspiring to defraud Medicare by using unqualified people to give physical therapy to Medicare recipients, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.
Robert Claude McGrath D.O., 65, and his son Robert Christopher McGrath, 47, both of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden federal court to separate informations charging them each with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
The McGraths, together with their practice, the Atlantic Spine & Joint Institute, have also agreed to pay $1.78 million as part of a civil settlement to resolve allegations that they illegally billed Medicare for those treatments.
“Elderly patients who need physical therapy deserve properly licensed and supervised caregivers,” Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick said. “Instead, the McGraths for years used unqualified and unsupervised employees to treat their patients, all while fraudulently billing Medicare for the phony services.”
“Patients undergoing physical therapy at the McGraths’ practice sought simply to feel and move better,” said Michael Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “It seems all the defendants sought was to enrich themselves at those patients’ – and U.S. taxpayers’ – expense. Medicare fraud deals a big blow to a critical piece of our health care system. Every dollar lost to bogus billing is a dollar less to use for legitimate treatments and services.”
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
The McGraths owned and operated Atlantic Spine & Joint Institute, a medical practice with offices in Westmont, New Jersey, and Wayne, Pennsylvania. Under Medicare rules, physical therapy had to be provided by Robert Claude McGrath or by a trained physical therapist under his supervision. However, from January 2011 through April 2016, the McGraths sought to defraud Medicare by employing unlicensed, untrained persons to give physical therapy to Medicare patients, at times when Robert Claude McGrath was not even in the office to supervise. They then submitted bills to Medicare fraudulently identifying Robert Claude McGrath as the provider of physical therapy.
The defendants each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2017.
“These criminals face serving time in prison as well as paying out a $1.78 million settlement,” said Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Additionally, my agency reserves the right to exclude both father and son from Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health programs.”
“People trust medical professionals to treat them and not cheat them,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark S. McCormack, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations’ Metro Washington Field Office. “Our office will continue to work with our federal law enforcement partners to pursue and bring to justice those who would exploit this vulnerable population.”
In the related civil settlement, also announced today, the McGraths and Atlantic Spine agreed to pay $1.78 million plus interest to the federal government to resolve allegations that the fraudulent bills submitted under the McGraths’ scheme caused false claims to be submitted to Medicare in violation of the False Claims Act.
The civil settlement resolves certain claims filed by Linda Stevens, a former billing manager at Atlantic Spine, in the District of New Jersey, under the federal False Claims Act. The federal False Claims Act contains a qui tam, or whistleblower, provision that permits whistleblowers to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims against the government, and to share in any recovery. Ms. Stevens will receive approximately $338,200 from the settlement proceeds, along with her attorney’s fees.
Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited agents of the FBI’s South Jersey Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Harpster in Philadelphia, special agents from the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Lampert, and special agents from the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge McCormack, with the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys R. David Walk Jr. and Andrew A. Caffrey III of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit represented the government in the criminal case and the civil case, respectively.
The New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office reorganized its health care practice in 2010 and created a stand-along Health Care and Government Fraud Unit to handle both criminal and civil investigations and prosecutions of health care fraud offenses. Since that time, the office has recovered more than $1.33 billion in health care and government fraud settlements, judgments, fines, restitution and forfeiture under the False Claims Act, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and other statutes.
Robert Christopher McGrath and Atlantic Spine & Joint Institute: Riza I. Dagli Esq., Roseland, New Jersey.
Robert Claude McGrath: Perry Primavera Esq., Hackensack, New Jersey
Counsel for Relator Linda Stevens: Brian J. McCormick Jr., Philadelphia