Former Social Security Administrative Law Judge Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Role in $550 Million Social Security Fraud Scheme

Friday, August 25, 2017

A former social security administrative law judge (ALJ) was sentenced today to four years in prison for his role in a scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $550 million in federal disability payments from the Social Security Administration (SSA) for thousands of claimants.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Special Agent in Charge Michael McGill of the Social Security Administration-Office of Inspector General’s (SSA-OIG) Philadelphia Field Division, Special Agent in Charge Amy S. Hess of the FBI’s Louisville Field Division, Special Agent in Charge Tracey D. Montaño of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Nashville Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Atlanta Regional Office made the announcement.

David Black Daugherty, 81, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves of the Eastern District of Kentucky, who also ordered Daugherty to pay restitution of over $93 million to the SSA and HHS. Daugherty pleaded guilty in May 2017 to two counts of receiving illegal gratuities.

According to admissions made as part of his guilty plea, beginning in 2004, Daugherty, as an ALJ assigned to the SSA’s Huntington, W. Va., hearing office, sought out pending disability cases in which Kentucky attorney Eric Christopher Conn represented claimants and reassigned those cases to himself. Daugherty then contacted Conn and identified the cases he intended to decide the following month and further solicited Conn to provide medical documentation supporting either physical or mental disability determinations. Without exception, Daugherty awarded disability benefits to individuals represented by Conn – in some instances, without first holding a hearing. As a result of Daugherty’s awarding disability benefits to claimants represented by Conn, Conn paid Daugherty an average of approximately $8,000 per month in cash, until approximately April 2011. All told, Daugherty received more than $609,000 in cash from Conn for deciding approximately 3,149 cases.

As a result of the scheme, Conn, Daugherty, and their co-conspirators obligated the SSA to pay more than $550 million in lifetime benefits to claimants based upon cases Daugherty approved for which he received payment from Conn.

Daugherty was indicted last year, along with Conn and Alfred Bradley Adkins, a clinical psychologist. The defendants were charged with conspiracy, fraud, false statements, money laundering and other related offenses in connection with the scheme.

Conn pleaded guilty on March 24, to a two-count information charging him with theft of government money and paying illegal gratuities, and was sentenced in absentia on July 14 to 12 years in prison. Conn absconded from court ordered-electronic monitoring on June 2, and is considered a fugitive. He remains under indictment. On June 12, Adkins was convicted after a jury trial of one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud and one count of making false statements. Adkins is scheduled to be sentenced on September 22.

The SSA-OIG, FBI, IRS-CI and HHS-OIG investigated the case. Trial Attorney Dustin M. Davis of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Trial Attorney Elizabeth G. Wright of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section are prosecuting the case, with previous co-counsel including Assistant U.S. Attorney Trey Alford of the Western District of Missouri and Investigative Counsel Kristen M. Warden of the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General.

CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and CHRISTUS Health to Pay $12.24 Million to Settle Medicaid False Claims Act Allegations

Friday, September 1, 2017

CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center (St. Vincent) and its partner, CHRISTUS Health (CHRISTUS), have agreed to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by making illegal donations to county governments, which were used to fund the state share of Medicaid payments to the hospital, the Department of Justice announced today. Under the settlement agreement, St. Vincent and CHRISTUS have agreed to pay $12.24 million, plus interest. St. Vincent is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. CHRISTUS is based in Irving, Texas.

“Congress expressly intended that states and counties use their own money when seeking federal matching funds,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Using local funds provides an incentive for the counties and states to, among other things, hold down costs rather than rely on non bona-fide donations by private providers.”

New Mexico’s Sole Community Provider (SCP) program, which was discontinued in 2014, provided supplemental Medicaid funds to hospitals in mostly rural communities. The federal government reimbursed the state of New Mexico for approximately 75 percent of its health care expenditures under the SCP program. Under federal law, New Mexico’s 25 percent “matching” share of SCP program payments had to consist of state or county funds, and not impermissible “donations” from private hospitals. This restriction on the use of private hospital funds to satisfy state Medicaid obligations was enacted by Congress to curb possible abuses and ensure that states have sufficient incentive to curb rising Medicaid costs.

Between 2001 and 2009, St. Vincent and CHRISTUS allegedly made non-bona fide donations and thus caused the presentment of false claims by the state of New Mexico to the federal government under the Medicaid program.

“Protecting the integrity of the Medicaid program is crucial because millions of Americans, including hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans, depend on the program for medical care and related services,” said Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney for the District of New Mexico. “This case illustrates our commitment to ensuring that government funds are legally obtained and used for their intended purposes. We will use all available civil remedies to recover the ill-gotten gains obtained by those who defraud government health care programs.”

The settlement resolves allegations originally brought in a lawsuit filed by a former Los Alamos County, New Mexico Indigent Healthcare Administrator under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private parties to bring suit on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery. The whistleblower will receive $2.249 million as her share of the recovery in this case.

The case was handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico with assistance from the Justice Department’s Civil Division and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

The lawsuit is captioned U.S. ex rel. Stepan v. Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center Corp. et al., Civil Action No. 11-cv-572 (D.N.M.). The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

Novo Nordisk Agrees to Pay $58 Million for Failure to Comply with FDA-Mandated Risk Program

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Payments Resolve Allegations Highlighted in DOJ Civil Complaint and Recently Unsealed Whistleblower Actions

Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Novo Nordisk Inc. will pay $58.65 million to resolve allegations that the company failed to comply with the FDA-mandated Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for its Type II diabetes medication Victoza, the Justice Department announced today. The resolution includes disgorgement of $12.15 million for alleged violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) from 2010 to 2012 and a payment of $46.5 million for alleged violations of the False Claims Act (FCA) from 2010 to 2014. Novo Nordisk is a subsidiary of Novo Nordisk U.S. Holdings Inc., which is a subsidiary of Novo Nordisk A/S of Denmark. Novo Nordisk’s U.S. headquarters is in Plainsboro, New Jersey.

“Today’s resolution demonstrates the Department of Justice’s continued commitment to ensuring that drug manufacturers comply with the law,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “When a drug manufacturer fails to share accurate risk information with doctors and patients, it deprives physicians of information vital to medical decision-making.”

In a civil complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asserting claims under the FDCA, the government alleged that, at the time of Victoza’s approval in 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required a REMS to mitigate the potential risk in humans of a rare form of cancer called Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma (MTC) associated with the drug. The REMS required Novo Nordisk to provide information regarding Victoza’s potential risk of MTC to physicians. A manufacturer that fails to comply with the requirements of the REMS, including requirements to communicate accurate risk information, renders the drug misbranded under the law.

As alleged in the complaint, some Novo Nordisk sales representatives gave information to physicians that created the false or misleading impression that the Victoza REMS-required message was erroneous, irrelevant, or unimportant. The complaint further alleges that Novo Nordisk failed to comply with the REMS by creating the false or misleading impression about the Victoza REMS-required risk message that violated provisions of the FDCA and led some physicians to be unaware of the potential risks when prescribing Victoza.

As alleged in the government’s complaint, after a survey in 2011 showed that half of primary care doctors polled were unaware of the potential risk of MTC associated with the drug, the FDA required a modification to the REMS to increase awareness of the potential risk. Rather than appropriately implementing the modification, the complaint alleges that Novo Nordisk instructed its sales force to provide statements to doctors that obscured the risk information and failed to comply with the REMS modification. Novo Nordisk has agreed to disgorge $12.15 million in profits derived from its unlawful conduct in violation of the FDCA.

“Novo Nordisk’s actions unnecessarily put vulnerable patients at risk,” said U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips for the District of Columbia. “We are committed to holding companies accountable for violating the integrity of the FDA’s efforts to ensure that doctors and patients have accurate information that allows them to make appropriate decisions about which drugs to use in their care. Working with the FDA and other law enforcement partners, we have sent a strong signal to the drug industry today.”

“Novo Nordisk Inc. sales representatives misled physicians by failing to accurately disclose a potential life threatening side effect of a prescription drug, and needlessly increased risks to patients being treated with this drug,” said Assistant Director in Charge Andrew W. Vale of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “The FBI is committed to ensuring that the private industry provides honest and accurate risk information to the public and will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to investigate companies who do not comply with FDA-mandated policies.”

“We need to trust that pharmaceutical companies truthfully represent their products’ potential risks,” said Special Agent in Charge Nick DiGiulio for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “We will continue to work with our partners to ensure federal health care dollars are spent only on drugs that are marketed honestly.”

Novo Nordisk will pay an additional $46.5 million to the federal government and the states to resolve claims under the FCA and state false claims acts. This portion of the settlement resolves allegations that Novo Nordisk caused the submission of false claims from 2010 to 2014 to federal health care programs for Victoza by arming its sales force with messages that could create a false or misleading impression with physicians that the Victoza REMS-required message about the potential risk of MTC associated with Victoza was erroneous, irrelevant, or unimportant and by encouraging the sale to and use of Victoza by adult patients who did not have Type II diabetes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved Victoza as safe and effective for use by adult patients who do not have Type II diabetes.

As a result of today’s FCA settlement, the federal government will receive $43,129,026 and state Medicaid programs will receive $3,320,963. The Medicaid program is funded jointly by the state and federal governments.

The FCA settlement resolves seven lawsuits filed under the whistleblower provision of the federal FCA, which permits private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and share in a portion of the government’s recovery. The civil lawsuits are captioned as follows: United States, et al. ex rel. Kennedy, v. Novo A/S, et al., No. 13-cv-01529 (D.D.C.), United States, et al. ex rel. Dastous, et al. v. Novo Nordisk, No. 11-cv-01662 (D.D.C), United States, et al., ex rel. Ferrara and Kelling v Novo Nordisk, Inc., et al., No. 1:11-cv-00074 (D.D.C.), United States, et al., ex rel. Myers v. Novo Nordisk, Inc., No. 11-cv-1596 (D.D.C.), United States, et al. ex rel Stepe v. Novo Nordisk, Inc., No. 13-cv-221 (D.D.C.), United States et al. ex rel Doe, et al. v. Novo Nordisk, Inc., et al., No. 1:17-00791 (D.D.C.), and United States ex rel. Smith, et al. v. Novo Nordisk, Inc., Civ. Action No. 16-1605 (D.D.C.). The amount to be recovered by the private parties has not been determined.

The settlements were the result of a coordinated effort among the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Commercial Litigation Branch, with assistance from the FDA’s Office of Chief Counsel. The investigation was conducted by the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the FBI, HHS-OIG, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Office of Personnel Management, Office of the Inspector General.

For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. For more information on the Commercial Litigation Branch’s Fraud Section, visit https://www.justice.gov/civil/fraud-section. For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc.

Galena Biopharma Inc. to Pay More Than $7.55 Million to Resolve Alleged False Claims Related to Opioid Drug

Friday, September 8, 2017

Galena Biopharma Inc. (Galena) will pay more than $7.55 million to resolve allegations under the civil False Claims Act that it paid kickbacks to doctors to induce them to prescribe its fentanyl-based drug Abstral, the Department of Justice announced today.

“Given the dangers associated with opioids such as Abstral, it is imperative that prescriptions be based on a patient’s medical need rather than a doctor’s financial interests,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice intends to vigorously pursue those who offer and receive illegal inducements that undermine the integrity of government health care programs.”

The conduct alleged by the government and resolved by today’s settlement was egregious because it incentivized doctors to over-prescribe highly addictive opioids,” said Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick for the District of New Jersey. “This settlement constitutes another example of the Department of Justice’s ongoing efforts to battle the opioid epidemic on every front.

The United States contends that Galena paid multiple types of kickbacks to induce doctors to prescribe Abstral, including providing more than 85 free meals to doctors and staff from a single, high-prescribing practice; paying doctors $5,000, and speakers $6,000, plus expenses, to attend an “advisory board” that was partly planned, and attended, by Galena sales team members and paying approximately $92,000 to a physician-owned pharmacy under a performance-based rebate agreement to induce the owners to prescribe Abstral. The United States also contends that Galena paid doctors to refer patients to the company’s RELIEF patient registry study, which was nominally designed to collect data on patient experiences with Abstral, but acted as a means to induce the doctors to prescribe Abstral. Galena has not marketed any pharmaceutical drug since the end of 2015.

Two of the doctors who received remuneration from Galena were tried, convicted and later sentenced to prison in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama following a jury trial of, among other counts, offenses relating to their prescriptions of Abstral. Galena cooperated in that prosecution.

The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by relator Lynne Dougherty under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States and obtain a portion of the government’s recovery. As part of today’s resolution, Ms. Dougherty will receive more than $1.2 million. The matter remains under seal as to allegations against entities other than Galena.

The settlement is the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, with assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Counsel to the Inspector General, and the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations’ Metro Washington Field Office.

The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only; there have been no admissions of liability by Galena.

South Carolina Family Practice Chain, Its Co-Owner, and Its Laboratory Director Agree to Pay the United States $2 Million to Settle Alleged False Claims Act Violations for Illegal Medicare Referrals and Billing for Unnecessary Medical Services

Monday, September 11, 2017

Family Medicine Centers of South Carolina LLC (FMC), has agreed to pay the United States $1.56 million, and FMC’s principal owner and former chief executive officer, Dr. Stephen F. Serbin, and its former Laboratory Director, Victoria Serbin, have agreed to pay $443,000 to resolve a False Claims Act lawsuit alleging that they submitted and caused the submission of false claims to the Medicare and TRICARE programs. FMC is a physician-owned chain of family medicine clinics located in and around Columbia, South Carolina, whose practices include Springwood Lake Family Practice, Woodhill Family Practice, Midtown Family Medicine, Saluda Pointe Family Medicine, Lake Murray Family Medicine, and the now closed Rice Creek Family Medicine.

The settlements announced today resolve allegations that FMC, as directed by Dr. Serbin, submitted claims to the Medicare Program that violated the physician self-referral prohibition, commonly known as the Stark Law, which is intended to ensure that a physician’s medical judgment is not compromised by improper financial incentives. The Stark Law forbids a clinic from billing Medicare for certain services ordered by physicians who have a financial relationship with the entity. In this case, the government alleged that the Stark Law was violated by FMC’s incentive compensation plan that paid FMC’s physicians a percentage of the value of laboratory and other diagnostic tests that they personally ordered through FMC, which FMC then billed to Medicare. Dr. Serbin, FMC’s co-owner and chief executive, allegedly initiated this program and reminded FMC’s physicians that they needed to order tests and other services through FMC in order to increase FMC’s profits and to ensure that their take-home pay remained in the upper level nationwide for family practice doctors.

“Financial arrangements that compensate physicians for referrals can sometimes encourage physicians to make decisions based on financial gain rather than patient needs,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice is committed to preventing illegal financial relationships that undermine the integrity of our public health programs and drive up the cost of healthcare for taxpayers.”

The settlements also resolve allegations that FMC, Dr. Serbin, and Victoria Serbin submitted and caused the submission of false claims to Medicare and TRICARE for medically unnecessary laboratory services by creating custom laboratory panels comprised of diagnostic tests not appropriate for routine measurement, performing these tests without an order from the treating physician, implementing standing orders to assure these custom panels were performed with defined frequency and not in reaction to clinical need, and programming FMC’s billing software to systematically change certain billing codes for laboratory tests to ensure payment by Medicare.

“Healthcare decisions should be made by physicians based on medical science and not with regard to maximizing the doctor’s own income,” said U.S. Attorney Beth Drake for the District of South Carolina. “Our goal in bringing this case was not only to recover money for improper healthcare claims, but also to deter similar conduct and promote health care affordability.”

The allegations settled today arose from a lawsuit filed by a physician formerly employed by FMC, Dr. Catherine A. Schaefer, under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. Under the act, private citizens can bring suit on behalf of the government for false claims and share in any recovery. Dr. Schaefer will receive $340,510.

As part of the settlement announced today, FMC and the Serbins have also agreed to enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), which ensures the Serbins will have no management role in FMC for five years and obligates FMC to undertake other substantial internal compliance reforms, including hiring an independent review organization to conduct annual claims reviews.

“Patients and taxpayers should expect that doctors’ best medical judgement is not clouded by what amount to thinly-veiled bribes,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson for HHS-OIG. “We will work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to preserve government health funds by bringing violators to justice.”

“We applaud the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina for holding this provider accountable for its actions,” said Deputy Director Guy Kiyokawa of the Defense Health Agency. “The provider’s actions targeted American service members, veterans and their families, diverting valuable resources through unnecessary tests. The Defense Health Agency continues to work closely with the Justice Department and other state and federal agencies to investigate all those who participated in these nefarious, fraudulent practices.”

This case was handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, HHS-OIG and the Defense Health Agency.

The litigation and settlement of this matter illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability. The case is captioned United States ex rel. Schaefer v. Family Medicine Centers of South Carolina, LLC, Stephen F. Serbin, M.D. and Victoria Serbin, No. 3:14-cv-342-MBS (D.S.C.).

CCC’s: A Shout Out From John Hughes

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Yesterday I had the pleasure of having lunch with my old boss, John Hughes.  Also with us were former office mates in the Philadelphia Field Office, Brad GeyerRich Rosenberg, and Wendy Norman.  I thought I’d post the picture because John is one of the most respected and beloved figures in the antitrust world and people often ask me, “How is John doing?”  John  is doing great!

John began his career in the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, Philadelphia Field Office and immediately began to work on what would become the Great Electrical Conspiracy cases–a watershed event in antitrust history.  He later became Chief of the Philadelphia Field Office where I worked for 34 years.  Everyone that worked for John agreed–he was the greatest boss, mentor and friend that anyone could ever ask for.  When John retired in 1994, he became a trial advisor on a number of Antitrust Division cases so he got to know and help staffs throughout the Division.   It is pretty common for a trial staff not to want someone looking over their shoulder as an “advisor,” but everyone asked for John.  He is equally respected by the defense and plaintiff bar and the judiciary.

So, I just want to let everyone know John and his wife Helen are doing great.  They keep busy with a very large family of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  John gives his best to everyone who helped make his career in antitrust so fondly memorable.

United States Files Complaints to Forfeit More Than $11 Million From Companies That Allegedly Laundered Funds To Benefit Sanctioned North Korean Entities

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

WASHINGTON – The United States filed two complaints today seeking imposition of a civil money laundering penalty and to civilly forfeit more than $11 million from companies that allegedly acted as financial facilitators for North Korea, announced U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips, Michael DeLeon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Phoenix Field Office, and Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office.

The actions, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, represent two of the largest seizures of North Korean funds by the Department of Justice. One complaint seeks $6,999,925 associated with Velmur Management Pte Ltd., a Singapore-based company. The other seeks $4,083,935 from Dandong Chengtai Trading Co. Ltd., also known as Dandong Zhicheng Metallic Material Co., Ltd., a company in Dandong, China.

The lawsuits follow a similar complaint, filed in June 2017, seeking more than $1.9 million from Mingzheng International Trading Limited, a company based in Shenyang, China.

The complaints allege that the companies have participated in schemes to launder U.S. dollars on behalf of sanctioned North Korean entities. According to the complaints, the companies participated in financial transactions in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), the North Korean Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, and federal conspiracy and money laundering statutes. Today’s complaints are the first filed actions based on the 2016 North Korean Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act.

“These complaints show our determination to stop North Korean sanctioned banks and their foreign financial facilitators from aiding North Korea in illegally accessing the United States financial system to obtain goods and services in the global market place,” said U.S. Attorney Phillips. “According to the complaints, these front companies are supporting sanctioned North Korean entities, including North Korean military and North Korean weapons programs. Working with our law enforcement partners, we will vigorously enforce vital sanctions laws.”

“The complaints allege that these companies are assisting North Korea in evading sanctions, which is in direct conflict with our national security interests,” said Special Agent in Charge DeLeon, of the FBI’s Phoenix Field Division. “We will continue to use the necessary resources to expose these types of actions and investigate those who utilize the U.S. banking systems for illegal activities.”

**

U.S. v. Velmur Management Pte., Ltd. (Velmur) and Transatlantic Partners Pte. Ltd. (Transatlantic)

This complaint alleges that Velmur and Transatlantic Partners Pte. Ltd. (Transatlantic) laundered United States dollars on behalf of sanctioned North Korean banks that were seeking to procure petroleum products from JSC Independent Petroleum Company (IPC), a designated entity. The complaint also seeks a civil monetary penalty against Velmur and Transatlantic for prior sanctions and money laundering violations related to this scheme.

According to the complaint, designated North Korean banks use front companies, including Transatlantic, to make U.S. dollar payments to Velmur. The complaint relates to funds that were transferred through four different companies and remitted to Velmur to wire funds to JSC Independent Petroleum Company (IPC), a Russian petroleum products supplier. On June 1, 2017, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) designated IPC. The designation noted that IPC had a contract to provide oil to North Korea and reportedly shipped over $1 million worth of petroleum products to North Korea.

The United Nations Panel of Experts reported in 2017 on the methods used by North Korean banks to evade sanctions and continue to access the international banking system. Specifically, despite strengthened financial sanctions, North Korean networks are adapting by using greater ingenuity in accessing formal banking channels. This includes maintaining correspondent bank accounts and representative offices abroad which are staffed by foreign nationals making use of front companies. These broad interwoven networks allow the North Korean banks to conduct illicit procurement and banking activity.

An FBI investigation revealed that Velmur’s and Transatlantic’s activities mirror this money laundering paradigm. Specifically, companies identified in the complaint and Transatlantic act as front companies for designated North Korean banks.

The government is seeking to forfeit $6,999,925 that was wired to Velmur in May 2017. The U.S. dollar payments, which cleared through the U.S., are alleged to violate U.S. law, because the entities were surreptitiously making them on behalf of the designated North Korean Banks, whose designation precluded such U.S. dollar transactions. The government also is seeking imposition of a monetary penalty commensurate with the millions of dollars allegedly laundered by Velmur and Transatlantic.

**

U.S. v. Dandong Chengtai Trading Co., Ltd. (Dandong Chengtai), also known as Dandong Zhicheng Metallic Material Co., Ltd.

This complaint alleges that Dandong Chengtai and associated front companies controlled by Chi Yupeng, a Chinese national, comprise one of the largest financial facilitators for North Korea. According to the complaint, Dandong Chengtai conspired to evade U.S. economic sanctions by facilitating prohibited U.S. dollar transactions through the United States on behalf of the North Korean Workers’ Party, a sanctioned entity.

The complaint further alleges that the North Korean government relies on exports of coal as its primary means of obtaining access to foreign currency, and that the North Korean military controls the amount of coal produced and its subsequent export. The North Korean government uses proceeds of coal sales to fund its weapons of mass destruction program and missile programs. Coal generates more than $1 billion in revenue per year for North Korea. The investigation revealed that Dandong Chengtai is one of the largest importers of North Korean coal in China, and has continued to engage in illicit U.S. dollar transactions related to its coal sales to benefit North Korea.

The complaint alleges that Dandong Chengtai facilitated wire transfers denominated in U.S. dollars for purchases of goods that are well outside the scope of a mineral trading company. Financial records reveal that purchases of bulk commodities such as sugar, rubber, petroleum products, and soybean oil, among others, were in fact destined for North Korea.

As reported in findings by the Treasury Department and the United Nations Panel of Experts, North Korean financial facilitators frequently establish and maintain offshore U.S. dollar accounts for the purposes of remitting wire transfers denominated in U.S. dollars on behalf of sanctioned North Korean entities. These broad interwoven networks allow sanctioned North Korean entities to conduct illicit procurement and banking activity.

The government is seeking to forfeit $4,083,935 that Dandong Chengtai wired on June 21, 2017 to Maison Trading, using their Chinese bank accounts. The investigation revealed that Maison Trading is a front company operated by a Dandong Chengtai employee. These U.S. dollar payments, which cleared through the United States, are alleged to violate U.S. law, because the recent North Korean sanctions law specifically barred U.S. dollar transactions involving North Korean coal and the proceeds of these transactions were for the benefit of the North Korea Worker’s Party, whose designation precluded such U.S. dollar transactions.

This case relates to a previously unsealed opinion from Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which found that probable cause existed to seize funds belonging to Dandong Chengtai.

**

The claims made in the complaints are only allegations and do not constitute a determination of liability.

The FBI’s Phoenix Field Office is investigating the case involving Velmur Management Pte Ltd. and Transatlantic Partners Pte., Ltd. The FBI’s Chicago Field Office is investigating the case involving Dandong Chengtai Trading Co. Ltd. Both investigations are being supported by the FBI Counterproliferation Center.

Assistant U.S Attorneys Arvind K. Lal, Zia M. Faruqui, Christopher B. Brown, Deborah Curtis, Ari Redbord, and Brian P. Hudak, all of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, are prosecuting both cases. Paralegal Specialist Toni Anne Donato and Legal Assistant Jessica McCormick are providing assistance.

dandong_chengtai_trading_-_complaint_-_august_2017.pdf

velmur_management_-_complaint_-_august_2017_4.pdf

Mylan Agrees to Pay $465 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Liability

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mylan Underpaid Medicaid Rebates on EpiPen

BOSTON – The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced today that pharmaceutical companies Mylan Inc. and Mylan Specialty L.P. have agreed to pay $465 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by knowingly misclassifying EpiPen, a branded epinephrine auto-injector drug, as a generic drug to avoid paying rebates owed to Medicaid.  Mylan Inc. and Mylan Specialty L.P. are both wholly owned subsidiaries of Mylan N.V., a Dutch-registered entity headquartered in Canonsburg, Penn.

Congress enacted the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program to ensure that state Medicaid programs were not susceptible to price gouging by manufacturers of drugs that were available from only a single source.  It therefore subjected such single-source, or brand name drugs, to a higher rebate that includes any difference between the drug’s current price and the price the drug would have had if its price had increased only at the general rate of inflation.  In contrast, generic drugs originating from multiple manufacturers are subject to lower rebates that, at least until recently, did not include an inflationary component.

The government contends that Mylan improperly avoided paying state Medicaid programs the higher rebates for branded drugs by misclassifying EpiPen as a generic drug, even though EpiPen had no FDA-approved therapeutic equivalents and even though Mylan marketed and priced EpiPen as a brand name drug.  Mylan raised the price of EpiPen by approximately 400% between 2010 and 2016.

“Mylan misclassified its brand name drug, EpiPen, to profit at the expense of the Medicaid program,” said Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb.  “Taxpayers rightly expect companies like Mylan that receive payments from taxpayer-funded programs to scrupulously follow the rules.  We will continue to root out fraud and abuse to protect the integrity of Medicaid and ensure a level playing field for pharmaceutical companies. We commend Sanofi for bringing this matter to our attention.”

“This settlement demonstrates the Department of Justice’s unwavering commitment to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for schemes to overbill Medicaid, a taxpayer-funded program whose purpose is to help the poor and disabled,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.  “Drug manufacturers must abide by their legal obligations to pay appropriate rebates to state Medicaid programs.”

As part of this settlement, Mylan has also entered into a corporate integrity agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) that requires, among other things, an independent review organization to annually review multiple aspects of Mylan’s practices relating to the Medicaid drug rebate program.

“Our five-year corporate integrity agreement requires intensive outside scrutiny to assess whether Mylan is complying with the rules of the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program,” said Gregory E. Demske, Chief Counsel to the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “In addition, the CIA requires individual accountability by Mylan board members and executives.”

A competing pharmaceutical manufacturer, Sanofi, raised this matter with the United States Attorney’s Office in 2014.  At the time, Sanofi was selling another epinephrine auto-injector drug called AUVI-Q and was reporting it to the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program as a brand name drug.  In 2016, Sanofi filed a complaint against Mylan under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, which permits private parties to sue on behalf of the government and to receive a share of any recovery.  See United States ex rel. sanofi-aventis US LLC v. Mylan Inc., et al., No. 16cv11572 (D. Mass.).  As a result of today’s settlement, Sanofi will receive $38.7 million as its share of the federal recovery, plus a share of the states’ recovery.

Acting U.S. Attorney Weinreb, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Raab, and HHS OIG Chief Counsel Demske made the announcement today.  The matter was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gregg Shapiro and Kriss Basil of Weinreb’s Office, and by Trial Attorneys Augustine Ripa and Nicholas Perros of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

Houston Home Health Agency Owner Sentenced to 480 Months in Prison for Conspiring to Defraud Medicare and Medicaid of More Than $17 Million

Friday, August 18, 2017

WASHINGTON – The owner and operator of five Houston-area home health agencies was sentenced on Thursday to 480 months in prison for conspiring to defraud Medicare and the State of Texas’ Medicaid-funded Home and Community-Based Service (HCBS) and Primary Home Care (PHC) Programs of more than $17 million and launder the money that he stole from Medicare and Medicaid.  The HCBS and PHC Programs provided qualified individuals with in-home attendant and community-based services that are known commonly as “provider attendant services” (PAS).  This case marks the largest PAS fraud case charged in Texas history.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez of the Southern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Field Office, Special Agent in Charge C.J. Porter of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Dallas Regional Office, Special Agent in Charge D. Richard Goss of IRS Criminal Investigation’s (CI) Houston Field Office and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) made the announcement.

Godwin Oriakhi, 61, of Houston, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake of the Southern District of Texas.  In March 2017, Oriakhi pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.

According to admissions made as part of Oriakhi’s plea, he, his co-defendant daughter and other members of his family owned and operated Aabraham Blessings LLC, Baptist Home Care Providers Inc., Community Wide Home Health Inc., Four Seasons Home Healthcare Inc. and Kis Med Concepts Inc., all of which were home health agencies in the Houston area.  Oriakhi admitted that he, along with his daughter and other co-conspirators, obtained patients for his home health agencies by paying illegal kickback payments to patient recruiters and his office employees for hundreds of patient referrals.  In his plea, Oriakhi also admitted that he, along with his daughter and co-conspirators, paid Medicare and Medicaid patients by cash, check, Western Union and Moneygram for receiving services from his family’s home health agencies in exchange for the ability to use the patients’ Medicare and Medicaid numbers to bill the programs for home healthcare and PAS services.  Oriakhi admitted that he, his daughter and their co-conspirators also directly paid some of these patients for recruiting and referring other Medicare and Medicaid patients to his agencies.  Additionally, Oriakhi admitted that he, his daughter and other co-conspirators paid physicians illegal kickbacks payments, which Oriakhi and his co-conspirators called “copayments,” for referring and certifying Medicare and Medicaid patients for home health and PAS services.

Oriakhi further admitted that each time he submitted a claim predicated on an illegal kickback payment he knew he was submitting a fraudulent claim to Medicare or Medicaid based on his false representations that the claim and the underlying transaction complied with the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and other state and federal laws.  Oriakhi further admitted that he knew that Medicare and Medicaid would not otherwise pay for the fraudulent claims, according to his plea.  In addition to the home health care and PAS services fraud scheme, Oriakhi admitted that he and his co-conspirators used the money fraudulently obtained from Medicare and Medicaid to make illegal kickback payments to patient recruiters, employees, physicians and patients to promote the Medicare home health and Medicaid PAS fraud conspiracies, and ensure their successful continuation.

In total, Oriakhi that he and his co-conspirators submitted approximately $17,819,456 in fraudulent home healthcare and PAS claims to Medicare and Medicaid and received approximately $16,198,600 on those claims.

To date, three others have pleaded guilty based on their roles in the fraudulent scheme at Oriakhi’s home healthcare agencies.  Oriakhi’s daughter, Idia Oriakhi, and Charles Esechie, a registered nurse who was Baptist’s primary admissions nurse, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with Oriakhi and others to commit health care fraud.  Jermaine Doleman, a patient recruiter, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Oriakhi and others to commit health care fraud and launder money.  Doleman was also charged in two other healthcare fraud cases.  Esechie was also sentenced on August 17, to 60 months in prison.  Idia Oriakhi and Jermaine Doleman are awaiting sentencing.

The case was investigated by the IRS-CI, FBI, HHS-OIG and MFCU under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.  The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Jonathan T. Baum and Trial Attorneys Aleza S. Remis and William S.W. Chang of the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which is part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.  The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operates in nine locations nationwide.  Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged over 3,500 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $12.5 billion.

To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

E-Commerce Company and Top Executive Agree to Plead Guilty to Price-Fixing Conspiracy for Customized Promotional Products

Monday, August 7, 2017

Conspiracy Was Conducted Through Social Media and Encrypted Messaging Applications

An e-commerce company and its top executive have agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to fix prices for customized promotional products sold online to customers in the United States. Zaappaaz Inc. (d/b/a WB Promotions Inc., Wrist-Band.com and Customlanyard.net) and its president Azim Makanojiya agreed to plead guilty to a one-count criminal violation of the Sherman Act.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Andrew Finch of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez and Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Field Division made the announcement.

According to the felony charges filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston, the conspirators attended meetings and communicated in person and online. The investigation has revealed that the conspirators used social media platforms and encrypted messaging applications, such as Facebook, Skype and Whatsapp, to reach and implement their illegal agreements. Specifically, the defendants and their co-conspirators agreed, from as early as 2014 until June 2016, to fix the prices of customized promotional products sold online, including wristbands and lanyards. In addition to agreeing to plead guilty, Zaappaaz has agreed to pay a $1.9 million criminal fine.

“As today’s charges show, criminals cannot evade detection by conspiring online and using encrypted messaging,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Andrew Finch. “In addition, today’s charges are a clear sign of the Division’s commitment to uncovering and prosecuting collusion that affects internet sales. American consumers have the right to a marketplace free of unlawful collusion, whether they are shopping at retail stores or online.”

“Schemes like the defendants’ cause financial harm to consumers who purchase goods and services and to businesses who sell goods and services in compliance with the laws of the United States,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez. “The United States will continue to investigate and prosecute individuals and businesses who seek to gain an illegal advantage.”

“The FBI stands ready to protect consumers from unscrupulous business practices,” said Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner. “Antitrust laws help protect the competitive process for the benefit of all consumers.”

Makanojiya is charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $1 million for individuals. The maximum fine for an individual may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

Both defendants have agreed to cooperate with the Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation. The plea agreements are subject to court approval.

This prosecution arose from an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing in the online promotional products industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section with the assistance of the FBI’s Houston Field Office. Anyone with information on price fixing or other anticompetitive conduct in the customized promotional products industry should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 888-647-3258 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html.