Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to Pay $1.6 Million to Resolve Allegations of False Claims For Federal Grants

– Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Corporation (Big Brothers) has agreed to pay the United States $1.6 million to resolve allegations of false claims for funds under Department of Justice grants awarded to help children at risk, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. Big Brothers is a not-for-profit organization that provides mentoring services to boys and girls throughout the United States. The organization, originally based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, now is headquartered in Tampa, Florida.
Big Brothers is a national organization that acts through approximately 300 independent affiliate agencies across the United States. Since 2004, Big Brothers has received millions of dollars in grants from the Justice Department to support initiatives on behalf of children at risk. As a condition of those grants, Big Brothers was required to maintain sound accounting and financial management systems in accordance with federal regulations and guidelines designed to ensure that grant funds would be properly accounted for and used only for appropriate purposes.
The United States alleges that Big Brothers violated these regulations and guidelines with respect to three grants awarded by the Justice Department from 2009 to 2011, by commingling the grant funds with general operating funds, failing to segregate expenditures to ensure that the funds for each grant were used as intended, and failing to maintain internal financial controls to safeguard the proper use of grant funds. These allegations were documented in a 2013 audit of the three grants performed by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General. Since 2013, Big Brothers has replaced its management team and begun implementing policies aimed at correcting deficiencies in its management and accounting of federal grant funds.
“The US Attorney’s office is committed to protecting federal grants and ensuring that the funds are appropriately spent,” said Memeger. “Federal grant recipients must administer these grants with transparency and diligence, and the compliance measures implemented pursuant to this settlement agreement will help to achieve those goals.”

“Organizations such as Big Brothers have an obligation to the populations they serve as well as to the taxpayer to ensure that government grant funds are used for their intended purpose,” said Mizer. “The settlement announced today exemplifies the Department’s commitment to hold those who mishandle such funds accountable.”
“We appreciate the support of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Civil Division in working with us on these kinds of cases,” said Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz. “The OIG’s auditors and investigators will continue to work with each other closely to uncover misuses of grant funds, and with our law enforcement partners to ensure that justice is served.”
In addition to paying the United States $1.6 million, Big Brothers has agreed to institute a strict compliance program that requires the organization to engage in regular audits, both internally and by independent auditors; establish a compliance team, an employee code of conduct, whistleblower policies, and a disciplinary policy for employees who engage in or fail to disclose abuses of federal grant funds; provide regular employee training on these policies; and employ risk assessment tools to detect abuses that might otherwise go undetected.

The investigation was conducted by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General. The settlement was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joel M. Sweet and Scott W. Reid in coordination with Trial Attorney David W. Tyler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch. The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

US Lender Pays $3.8 Million to Resolve Liability Relating to ExIm Bank Loans

The Justice Department announced today that Hencorp Becstone Capital L.C. (Hencorp) has agreed to pay $3.8 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that it made false statements and claims to the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) in order to obtain loan guarantees.  Hencorp is a Miami-based lender and financial services company that provides financing and other financial services to Latin American businesses.

“The Ex-Im Bank provides vital support for U.S. manufacturing by enabling foreign businesses to obtain financing to purchase U.S.-made goods and equipment,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously pursue those who attempt to take advantage of this important program.”

The Ex-Im Bank guarantees loans made by approved lenders to foreign businesses for the purchase of American-made products.  The lender is responsible for performing a credit review of the transaction to ensure that it meets applicable criteria.  The government alleged that Ricardo Maza, a Peruvian-based former Hencorp business agent, created false documentation to obtain Ex-Im Bank guarantees on fictitious transactions on which no products were sold or exported, and that Hencorp acted recklessly by outsourcing key credit review functions to Maza without adequate supervision or oversight.  The government alleged that Maza then diverted the proceeds of the loans to himself and to his friends and business associates in Peru, and that the transactions resulted in losses to the Ex-Im Bank when the loans were not repaid.  In 2012, Mario Mimbella, 64, of Miami, Florida, the purported U.S.-based exporter on three of the fraudulent transactions, pled guilty to making false records for his participation in the scheme and was later sentenced to prison.

“Lenders that use Ex-Im programs have an obligation to prevent and detect fraud,” said Acting Inspector General Michael T. McCarthy for the Ex-Im Bank.  “The Office of Inspector General will pursue accountability for all participants involved in schemes that defraud the Ex-Im Bank.”

This settlement resolves allegations made in a whistleblower lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act by Genaro Benites Caballero, the former owner of one of the purported purchasers who stated that he had no part in the scheme and that his signature was forged on key documents without his knowledge, and Patricia Doris Lee Dominguez, a former attorney for the purported purchaser.  Under the False Claims Act, private citizens can sue on behalf of the government and share in any recovery.  The whistleblowers will receive $608,000 of the settlement.

This case was handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Office of Inspector General for the Ex-Im Bank.

The lawsuit is captioned United States ex rel. Benites Caballero, et al. v. Hencorp Becstone Capital, L.C., et al., cv-13-168 (D.D.C.).  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability with respect to Hencorp.

Florida Home Health Care Company Agrees to Pay $1.1 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

Recovery Home Care Inc., Recovery Home Care Services Inc. (collectively Recovery Home Care) and National Home Care Holdings LLC have agreed to pay $1.1 million to resolve allegations that the Recovery Home Care entities violated the False Claims Act by improperly paying doctors for referrals of home health care services provided to Medicare patients, the Department of Justice announced today.  The Recovery Home Care entities provide home health care services to Medicare beneficiaries and were purchased by National Home Care Holdings LLC in 2012, after the conduct addressed by the settlement occurred.

“Health care providers that attempt to profit by providing illegal inducements will be held accountable,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “We will continue to advocate for the appropriate use of Medicare funds and the proper care of our senior citizens.”

From 2009 through 2012, Recovery Home Care, headquartered in West Palm Beach, Florida, allegedly paid dozens of physicians thousands of dollars per month to perform patient chart reviews.  According to the government’s lawsuit, the physicians were over-compensated for any actual work they performed and, in reality, payments to the physicians were used to induce them to refer their patients to Recovery Home Care, in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law.

“Inducements of this kind are designed to improperly influence a physician’s independent medical judgment,” said U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida.  “This lawsuit and today’s settlement attests to our office’s on-going commitment to safeguard federal health care program beneficiaries from the effects of such illegal conduct.”

The Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law are intended to ensure that a physician’s medical judgment is not compromised by improper financial incentives.  The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by federal health care programs, including Medicare.  The Stark Law forbids a home health care provider from billing Medicare for certain services referred by physicians who have a financial relationship with the entity.

The settlement partially resolves allegations made in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Tampa, Florida, by Gregory Simony, a former employee of Recovery Home Care.  The lawsuit was filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery.  The act also allows the government to intervene and take over the action, as it did in part in this case.  Simony will receive $198,000 of the recovered funds.  The government continues to litigate this case against Recovery Home Care’s previous owner, Mark Conklin.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $23.8 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $15.2 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and HHS-OIG.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Simony v. Recovery Home Care, et al., Case No. 8-12-cv-2495-T-36TBM (M.D. Fla.).  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

Minnesota-Based ev3 to Pay United States $1.25 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations

Medical device manufacturer ev3 Inc., formerly known as Fox Hollow Technologies Inc., has agreed to pay the United States $1.25 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that Fox Hollow caused certain hospitals to submit false claims to Medicare for unnecessary inpatient admissions related to minimally-invasive atherectomy procedures, the Justice Department announced today.

“Today’s settlement demonstrates our commitment to ensure that the Medicare Trust Fund is used to pay for only necessary medical care,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Charging the government for higher-cost inpatient services that patients do not need wastes the country’s precious health care resources.”

“It should come as no surprise to anyone that proper health care of a patient includes more than just competence of a provider, it requires accuracy and honesty in billing Medicare for the patient’s treatment,” said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. of the Western District of New York.  “In this case, a medical device manufacturer allegedly induced hospitals to admit patients as inpatients for minimally-invasive procedures involving its device, even though many of those patients should have been treated as outpatients at significantly less cost.  This was done in order to collect higher Medicare reimbursements which ultimately drive up costs for all taxpayers and beneficiaries of government health programs.”

The United States alleged that Fox Hollow, which was acquired by ev3 Inc. in late 2007, knowingly caused 12 hospitals located throughout nine states to submit claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary inpatient stays for certain Medicare beneficiaries undergoing elective atherectomy procedures.  Atherectomy is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure that uses a small cutting device to remove atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, from large blood vessels within the body, and it is intended to open up narrowed coronary arteries to increase blood flow and circulation.  One such device used in atherectomy procedures is the Silver Hawk Plaque Excision System sold by Fox Hollow.  The United States alleged that throughout 2006 and 2007, to increase hospital purchases of the Silver Hawk device, Fox Hollow advised hospitals that they should bill Silver Hawk atherectomy procedures as more expensive inpatient claims, as opposed to less costly outpatient claims.  As a result, certain hospitals allegedly claimed greater reimbursement than they were entitled to for treating Medicare beneficiaries who underwent Silver Hawk atherectomy procedures.

“Medical device makers that try to boost their profits by causing patients to be admitted for unnecessary and expensive inpatient hospital stays will be held accountable,” said Special Agent in Charge Thomas O’Donnell of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  “Both patients and taxpayers deserve to have medical decisions made based on what is medically appropriate.”

The civil settlement resolves a lawsuit filed under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, which permits private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and obtain a portion of the government’s recovery.  The lawsuit was filed by Amanda Cashi, who formerly worked as a Fox Hollow sales representative.  Cashi will receive $250,000.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $23.5 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $15 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The settlement with ev3 was the result of a coordinated effort among the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York, the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, and HHS-OIG.

The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

The civil lawsuit is captioned United States ex rel. Cashi v. Fox Hollow Technologies, Inc., et al. Civ. No. 09-CV-01066-S (W.D.N.Y.).

United States Settles False Claims Act Suit Against Good Shepherd Hospice Inc. and Related Entities

Midwest Hospice Chain Allegedly Billed Medicare for Ineligible Patients

Today, Good Shepherd Hospice Inc., Good Shepherd Hospice of Mid America Inc., Good Shepherd Hospice, Wichita, L.L.C., Good Shepherd Hospice, Springfield, L.L.C., and Good Shepherd Hospice – Dallas L.L.C. (collectively Good Shepherd) agreed to pay $4 million to resolve allegations that Good Shepherd submitted false claims for hospice patients who were not terminally ill.  Good Shepherd is a for-profit hospice headquartered in Oklahoma City which provides hospice services in Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Texas.

“The Medicare hospice benefit is intended to provide comfort and care to patients nearing the end of life,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “We will continue to aggressively pursue companies that abuse the hospice benefit to improperly inflate their profits.”

The Medicare hospice benefit is available for patients who elect palliative treatment (medical care focused on providing patients with relief from pain, symptoms or stress) for a terminal illness and have a life expectancy of six months or less if their illness runs its normal course.  When a Medicare patient receives hospice services, that individual is no longer entitled to Medicare coverage for care designed to cure his or her illness.

The government alleged that Good Shepherd knowingly submitted or caused the submission of false claims for hospice care for patients who were not terminally ill.  Specifically, the United States contended that Good Shepherd engaged in certain business practices that contributed to claims being submitted for patients who did not have a terminal prognosis of six months or less, by pressuring staff to meet admissions and census targets and paying bonuses to staff, including hospice marketers, admissions nurses and executive directors, based on the number of patients enrolled.  The United States further alleged that Good Shepherd hired medical directors based on their ability to refer patients, focusing particularly on medical directors with ties to nursing homes, which were seen as an easy source of patient referrals.  The United States also alleged that Good Shepherd failed to properly train staff on the hospice eligibility criteria.

“Health care fraud puts profits above patients, and steals from taxpayers,” said U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson of the Western District of Missouri.  “In this case, company whistleblowers alleged that patients received unnecessary hospice care while Good Shepherd engaged in illicit business practices to enrich itself at the public’s expense.  Today’s settlement fairly resolves those issues and puts measures in place to prevent similar conduct in the future.”

In addition, as part of the settlement, each Good Shepherd entity agreed to enter into a corporate integrity agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), which will provide for procedures and reviews to be put into place to avoid and promptly detect conduct similar to that which gave rise to the settlement.

“Being a hospice provider in the Medicare program is a privilege, not a right,” said Special Agent in Charge Mike Fields of the HHS-OIG Dallas Region.  “Hospice providers that seek to boost profits by providing hospice services to Medicare beneficiaries who are not terminally ill compromise both the health of its patients as well as the integrity of Medicare.  Our agency will continue to hold such hospice providers accountable for their actions.”

The settlement resolves allegations filed by relators Kathi Cordingley and Tracy Jones, former employees of Good Shepherd, under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which authorize private parties to sue for fraud on behalf of the United States and share in the recovery.  The relators will receive approximately $680,000.

This suit is part of the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $23.5 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $15 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

This matter was investigated by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri and HHS-OIG.  The claims asserted against defendants are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

The lawsuit is captioned United States ex rel. Cordingley and Jones v. Good Shepherd Hospice, Mid America, Inc., No. 4:11-cv-1087 (W.D. Mo.).

United States Files Suit Against Omnicare Inc. for Accepting Kickbacks from Drug Manufacturer to Promote an Anti-Epileptic Drug in Nursing Homes

The United States has filed a civil False Claims Act complaint against Omnicare Inc. alleging that it solicited and received millions of dollars in kickbacks from pharmaceutical manufacturer Abbott Laboratories, the Justice Department announced today.  Omnicare is the nation’s largest provider of pharmaceuticals and pharmacy consulting services to nursing homes.  Federal regulations designed to protect nursing home residents from unnecessary drugs require nursing homes to retain consulting pharmacists such as those provided by Omnicare to ensure that residents’ drug prescriptions are appropriate.

In its complaint, the United States alleges that Omnicare solicited and received kickbacks from Abbott in exchange for purchasing and recommending the prescription drug Depakote for controlling behavioral disturbances exhibited by dementia patients residing in nursing homes serviced by Omnicare.  According to the complaint, Omnicare’s pharmacists reviewed nursing home patients’ charts at least monthly and made recommendations to physicians on what drugs should be prescribed for those patients.  The government alleges that Omnicare touted its influence over physicians in nursing homes in order to secure kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies such as Abbott.

“Elderly nursing home residents suffering from dementia are among our nation’s most vulnerable patient populations, and they depend on the independent judgment of healthcare professionals for their daily care,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Kickbacks to consulting pharmacists compromise their independence and undermine their role in protecting nursing home residents from the use of unnecessary drugs.”

The United States alleges that Omnicare disguised the kickbacks it received from Abbott in a variety of ways.  Abbott allegedly made payments to Omnicare described as “grants” and “educational funding,” even though their true purpose was to induce Omnicare to recommend Depakote.  For example, according to the complaint, Omnicare solicited substantial contributions from Abbott and other pharmaceutical manufacturers to its “Re*View” program.  Although Omnicare claimed that Re*View was a “health management” and “educational” program, the complaint alleges that it was simply a means by which Omnicare solicited kickbacks from pharmaceutical manufacturers in exchange for increasing the utilization of their drugs on elderly nursing home residents.  In internal documents, Omnicare allegedly referred to Re*View as its “one extra script per patient” program.  The complaint also alleges that Omnicare entered into agreements with Abbott by which Omnicare was entitled to increasing levels of rebates from Abbott based on the number of nursing home residents serviced and the amount of Depakote prescribed per resident.  Finally, the complaint alleges that Abbott funded Omnicare management meetings on Amelia Island, Florida, offered tickets to sporting events to Omnicare management, and made other payments to local Omnicare pharmacies.

“Although the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia is small, we will not waver in our pursuit of the largest corporations, like Omnicare and Abbott, who illegally raid the coffers of Medicaid, Medicare, and other healthcare benefit programs,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Anthony P. Giorno for the Western District of Virginia.

“Kickback allegations place elderly nursing home residents at risk that treatment decisions are influenced by improper financial incentives,” said Special Agent in Charge Nicholas DiGiulio for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) region including Virginia. “We will continually guard government health programs and taxpayers from companies more intent on their bottom lines than on patient care.”

In May 2012, the United States, numerous individual states, and Abbott entered into a $1.5 billion global civil and criminal resolution that, among other things, resolved Abbott’s civil liability under the False Claims Act for paying kickbacks to nursing home pharmacies.

The United States filed its complaint against Omnicare in two consolidated whistleblower lawsuits filed under the False Claims Act in the Western District of Virginia.  The whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act authorize private parties to sue for fraud on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.  The United States is entitled to intervene and take over such lawsuits, as it has done here.

This case illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $23.2 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $14.9 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

This investigation was jointly handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia, HHS-OIG, the Office of the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia and the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

The cases are captioned United States ex rel. Spetter v. Abbott Labs., et al., Case No. 10-cv-00006 (W.D. Va.) and United States ex rel. McCoyd v. Abbott Labs., et al., Case No. 07-cv-00081 (W.D. Va.).  The claims asserted in the government’s complaint are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

Iron Mountain Companies Pay $44.5 Million to Settle Alleged False Billings for Storing Government Documents and Data

Iron Mountain Incorporated and Iron Mountain Information Management LLC (collectively Iron Mountain) has paid $44.5 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that Iron Mountain overcharged federal agencies for record storage services under General Services Administration (GSA) contracts, the Department of Justice announced today.  Iron Mountain is a records storage company headquartered in Boston.

“Protecting the federal procurement process from false claims is central to the mission of the Department of Justice,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “We will continue to ensure that when federal monies are used to purchase commercial services the government receives the prices and services to which it is entitled.”

“This settlement illustrates our commitment to protecting the integrity of federal contracting programs,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner for the Eastern District of California.  “Federal agencies rely on pricing information under the Multiple Award Schedule program in particular, and deserve the full benefit of applicable contract terms.”

This settlement relates to contracts under which Iron Mountain provided record storage services to government entities from 2001 to 2014 through GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program.  The MAS program provides the government with a streamlined process for procurement of commonly used commercial goods and services.  The settlement resolves allegations that Iron Mountain failed to meet its contractual obligations to provide GSA with accurate information about its commercial sales practices during contract negotiations, and failed to comply with the price reduction clause of the GSA contracts by not extending lower prices to government customers during its performance of the contracts.  It also resolves an allegation that Iron Mountain charged the United States for storage meeting National Archives and Records Administration requirements when the storage provided did not meet such requirements.

“My office will continue working diligently to make sure American taxpayers are getting the best value for every dollar spent,” said Acting Inspector General Robert C. Erickson for GSA.

The civil settlement resolves a lawsuit filed under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, which permits private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and obtain a portion of the government’s recovery.  The civil lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of California by Brent Stanley, a former Iron Mountain employee, and Patrick McKillop, who worked in the records management industry.  Collectively, they will receive $8,010,000.

The settlement with Iron Mountain was the result of a coordinated effort among the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California, the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the GSA’s Office of the Inspector General, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the NASA Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General.

The lawsuit is captioned United States ex rel. Brent Stanley and Patrick McKillop v. Iron Mountain Incorporated, Civil Action No. 11-3260 (E.D. Cal.).  The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Rite Aid Corporation Pays $2.99 Million for Alleged Use of Gift Cards to Induce Medicare and Medicaid Business

Rite Aid Corporation, a Delaware corporation and national retail drugstore chain with its principal place of business in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, has paid the United States $2.99 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by inappropriately using gift cards as inducements, the Department of Justice announced today.

The settlement resolves allegations that Rite Aid offered illegal inducements to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to transfer their prescriptions to Rite Aid pharmacies.  The government alleged that from 2008 to 2010, Rite Aid had knowingly and improperly influenced the decisions of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to transfer their prescriptions to Rite Aid pharmacies by offering them gift cards in exchange for their business.

“This case demonstrates the government’s ongoing commitment to enforcing accountability, transparency and fairness in the retail pharmacy industry,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Civil Division.  “The government will continue to advocate for the best interests of Medicare and Medicaid patients, and prevent pharmacies from improperly manipulating their healthcare choices.”

“This settlement holds Rite Aid accountable for exerting undue influence on individuals when they make important healthcare decisions about where and when to fill prescriptions,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura for the Central District of California.  “Corporate profit should never steer an individual away from making the right healthcare decision.”

“Pharmacies are not allowed to improperly influence the decision-making of Medicare and Medicaid patients about where to fill prescriptions,” said Special Agent in Charge Glenn R. Ferry for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  “Pharmacy chains that manipulate patient choices in this way will be held accountable.”

The settlement resolves allegations filed by Jack Chin under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which authorizes private parties to sue for fraud on behalf of the United States and share in the recovery.  Chin will receive approximately $508,300 of the settlement.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $23.2 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $14.9 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

This case was investigated jointly by the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units and HHS-OIG.

The claims settled by today’s agreement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

New Grant Fraud Case Filed (Americorps)

Maricopa County Community College District Agrees to Pay $4 Million for Alleged False Claims Related to Award of AmeriCorps Education Awards

Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) has agreed to pay $4.08 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that it submitted false claims to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) concerning AmeriCorps state and national grants, the Justice Department announced today.  MCCCD is the entity responsible for operating community colleges in Maricopa County, Arizona, and is based in Phoenix.

“Those who receive federal funds must deal with the government openly and honestly,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice will ensure that financial assistance provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service is received only by eligible individuals who satisfy CNCS’s mission of promoting service and education.”

CNCS is an independent federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, among other national service programs.  MCCCD obtained AmeriCorps funding for Project Ayuda, a program that proposed to engage students in national service.  In order to receive an AmeriCorps education award, a student had to meet certain service-hour requirements.  MCCCD allegedly improperly certified that students had completed the required number of service hours so that they would earn an education award.  This resulted in CNCS providing education awards to these students.  MCCCD also allegedly improperly received grant funds from CNCS to administer the project.

“Our internal process uncovered MCCCD’s mismanagement, and we worked with the Justice Department to ensure that taxpayer dollars were recovered,” said CNCS’s General Counsel Valerie Green.  “This is an example of how interagency collaboration works.”

“Taxpayers are justifiably outraged when a community fails to receive promised services because national service funds were misused,” said CNCS’s Inspector General Deborah J. Jeffrey.  “We hope that this settlement will deter other grantees from similar misconduct.”

The allegations resolved by this settlement arose from a whistleblower lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act by Christine Hunt, an MCCCD employee.  Under the False Claims Act, private citizens can sue on behalf of the government and share in any recovery.  Hunt’s share of the settlement is $775,827.

This case was handled by the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Civil Division and CNCS’s Office of Inspector General and Office of General Counsel.

The lawsuit is captioned United States ex rel. Hunt v. Maricopa County Community College District; Paula and Richard Vaughn, No. 11-cv-2241 (D. Ariz.).  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Biomet Companies to Pay Over $6 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations Concerning Bone Growth Stimulators

EBI LLC, doing business as Biomet Spine and Bone Healing Technologies and Biomet Inc. have agreed to pay $6.07 million to resolve allegations that EBI violated the False Claims Act by paying kickbacks to induce use of its bone growth stimulators and billing federal health care programs for refurbished stimulators, the Department of Justice announced today.  EBI is a medical device company located in Parsippany, New Jersey, that sells bone growth stimulators, which are used to repair fractures that are slow to heal.  It is a subsidiary of Biomet, which is based in Warsaw, Indiana.

“Medical device companies must not use improper financial incentives to influence the decision to use their products,” said Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General August Flentje of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “This settlement demonstrates the department’s commitment to protect patients, and the taxpayers who fund their care, by ensuring that medical decisions are based on the patients’ medical needs rather than the financial interests of others.”

The United States alleged that, from 2001 to 2008, EBI paid staff at doctors’ offices to influence doctors to order its bone growth stimulators.  These payments were allegedly provided pursuant to personal service agreements with staff members. The United States concluded that these payments violated the Anti-Kickback Act and resulted in false billings to various federal health care programs, including Medicare.  The settlement also resolves EBI’s disclosure that it received federal reimbursements for bone growth stimulators that had been refurbished.

“This settlement demonstrates our resolve in ensuring that patients receive, and the government pays for, health care that is based on sound medical judgment, and not compromised by kickbacks,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz of the District of Massachusetts.

“Kickbacks taint medical decision-making, cause overutilization of services, and lead to increased taxpayer and patient costs,” said Special Agent in Charge Phillip Coyne of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  “These improper inducements have no place in government health programs relied on by millions of Americans.”

The settlement resolves in part an allegation filed in a lawsuit by Yu Yue, a former product manager for EBI, in federal court in New Jersey.  The lawsuit was filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery.  Yu’s share has not yet been determined.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $23 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $14.8 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Civil Division; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts; HHS-OIG; the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations.

Ms. Yu’s case is captioned United States ex rel. Yu v. Biomet, Inc., Civil Action No. 09-1731 (D.N.J.).  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.