Signature HealthCARE to Pay More Than $30 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations Related to Rehabilitation Therapy

June 8, 2018

Signature HealthCARE, LLC (Signature), a Louisville, Kentucky based company that owns and operates approximately 115 skilled nursing facilities, including 7 in middle Tennessee, has agreed to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly submitting false claims to Medicare for rehabilitation therapy services that were not reasonable, necessary and skilled, the Department of Justice announced today.  The settlement also resolves allegations that Signature submitted forged pre-admission certifications of patient need for skilled nursing to the state of Tennessee’s Medicaid program.  Under the settlement agreements, Signature has agreed to pay more than $30 million.  As part of the resolution, the State of Tennessee will receive a portion of the overall settlement.

“Today’s settlement demonstrates our continuing efforts to protect patients and taxpayer by ensuring that the care provided to beneficiaries of government-funded healthcare programs is dictated by clinical needs, not a provider’s fiscal interests,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Nursing home facilities provide important services to our elderly, and those facilities must uphold the trust placed in them by billing the government only for reasonable and necessary services.”

The government alleged that Signature engaged in various practices that resulted in the submission of claims for unreasonable, unnecessary, and unskilled services to Medicare patients, including: (1) presumptively placing patients in the highest therapy reimbursement level, rather than relying on individualized evaluations to determine the level of care most suitable for each patient’s clinical needs; (2) providing the minimum number of minutes required to bill at a given reimbursement level while discouraging the provision of additional therapy beyond that minimum threshold; and, (3) pressuring therapists and patients to complete the planned minutes of therapy even when patients were sick or declined to participate in therapy.

“Health care providers who engage in deceptive practices place patients at unnecessary risk and contribute to the financial distress of our federal healthcare programs,” said U.S. Attorney Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee.  “Our dedicated teams of civil enforcement attorneys will work tirelessly with the relators who report fraud such as this and with our law enforcement partners who investigate healthcare fraud.  When we determine that companies are cheating the taxpayers, we will hold them accountable as we have in this case.”

“Our most vulnerable citizens are put at risk when healthcare providers put their financial interests above their patients’ needs and valuable federal funds are diverted from where they are surely needed,” said U. S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak for the Northern District of Georgia. “This settlement demonstrates our commitment to pursuing healthcare providers who provide unnecessary care to advance their bottom line.”

“Signature was charged with illegally boosting profits by providing excessive amounts of therapy to patients whether they needed it or not,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. “The decision to provide therapy should never be based on corporate financial considerations rather than a patient’s medical needs.”

The settlement resolves allegations filed in a lawsuit by Kristi Emerson and LeeAnn Tuesca, former Signature therapy employees, in federal court in Nashville, Tennessee.  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 this case.  Ms. Emerson and Ms. Tuesca will receive a portion of the recovered funds.

The settlements were the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, the United States Attorney’s Offices for the Middle District of Tennessee and the Northern District of Georgia, the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General.  Trial Attorneys Christelle Klovers and Denise Barnes of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, Assistant United States Attorney Sarah K. Bogni of the Middle District of Tennessee, and Assistant United States Attorney Lena Amanti of the Northern District of Georgia represent the United States.  Assistant Attorney General Philip Bangle represents the State of Tennessee.

  The case is captioned United States ex rel. Emerson and Tuesca v. Signature HealthCARE, LLC, et al., Case No. 1:15-cv-00027 (M.D. Tenn.).  The claims resolved by the settlements are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Japanese Fiber Manufacturer to Pay $66 Million for Alleged False Claims Related to Defective Bullet Proof Vests

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Toyobo Co. Ltd. of Japan and its American subsidiary, Toyobo U.S.A. Inc., f/k/a Toyobo America Inc. (collectively, Toyobo), have agreed to pay $66 million to resolve claims under the False Claims Act that they sold defective Zylon fiber used in bullet proof vests that the United States purchased for federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies, the Justice Department announced today.

The settlement resolves allegations that between at least 2001 and 2005, Toyobo, the sole manufacturer of Zylon fiber, knew that Zylon degraded quickly in normal heat and humidity, and that this degradation rendered bullet proof vests containing Zylon unfit for use.  The United States further alleged that Toyobo nonetheless actively marketed Zylon fiber for bullet proof vests, published misleading degradation data that understated the degradation problem, and when Second Chance Body Armor recalled some of its Zylon-containing vests in late 2003, started a public relations campaign designed to influence other body armor manufacturers to keep selling Zylon-containing vests.  According to the United States, Toyobo’s actions delayed by several years the government’s efforts to determine the true extent of Zylon degradation.  Finally, in August 2005, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) completed a study of Zylon-containing vests and found that more than 50 percent of used vests could not stop bullets that they had been certified to stop.  Thereafter, the NIJ decertified all Zylon-containing vests.

“Bulletproof vests are sometimes what stands between a police officer and death,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  “Selling material for these vests that one knows to be defective is dishonest, and risks the lives of the men and women who serve to protect us. The Department of Justice is committed to the protection of our law enforcement officers, and today’s resolution sends another clear message that we will not tolerate those who put our first responders in harm’s way.”

“This settlement sends a strong message to suppliers of products to the federal government that they must be truthful in their claims, particularly with regard to health and safety,” said Carol Fortine Ochoa, Inspector General of the General Services Administration.

This settlement is part of a larger investigation undertaken by the Civil Division of the body armor industry’s use of Zylon in body armor.  The Civil Division previously recovered more than $66 million from 16 entities involved in the manufacture, distribution or sale of Zylon vests, including body armor manufacturers, weavers, international trading companies, and five individuals.  The settlement announced today brings the Division’s overall recoveries to over $132 million.  The United States still has lawsuits pending against Richard Davis, the former chief executive of Second Chance, and Honeywell International Inc.

The settlement announced today resolves allegations filed in two lawsuits, one brought by the United States and the other filed by Aaron Westrick, Ph.D., a law enforcement officer formerly employed by Second Chance who is now a Criminal Justice professor at Lake Superior University.  Dr. Westrick’s 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 2005 in Dr. Westrick’s case.  Dr. Westrick will receive $5,775,000.

This case was handled by the Justice Department’s Civil Division, along with the General Services Administration, Office of the Inspector General; the Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Command; the Department of the Treasury, Office of Inspector General for Tax Administration; the Air Force Office of Special Investigations; the Department of Energy, Office of the Inspector General; and the Defense Contracting Audit Agency.

The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.  The lawsuits resolved by the settlement are captioned United States ex rel. Westrick v. Second Chance Body Armor, et al., No. 04-0280 (PLF) (D.D.C.) and United States v. Toyobo Co. Ltd., et al., No. 07-1144 (PLF) (D.D.C.).

 

Beam Bros. Trucking Inc. and Its Principals Agree to Settle Civil False Claims Act Allegations

Monday, March 12, 2018

Beam Bros. Trucking Inc. (BBT), and its principals Gerald Beam and Garland Beam, have agreed to pay $1,025,000 to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that BBT overcharged the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) on contracts to transport mail.  BBT is a trucking company located in Mt. Crawford, Virginia.

“The Department of Justice takes seriously its role in protecting the federal procurement process from false claims,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “This settlement demonstrates that we will hold accountable federal contractors engaging in fraud, and will ensure that federal funds are protected from overcharges and abuse.”

“We are gratified to have contributed to this investigation and applaud the exceptional work by the investigative team for both protecting the contracting process and overall program costs,” said Special Agent in Charge Scott Pierce of the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General.  “Along with our law enforcement partners, the USPS OIG will continue to aggressively investigate those who engage in activities designed to defraud the Postal Service.”

“Contractors working for the federal government are held to the same high ethical standards as full-time employees,” U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Craig Carpenito said. “This settlement will return more than $1 million to the USPS.”

USPS contracts with trucking companies, including BBT, to transport mail throughout the United States.  On some contracts, USPS had provided trucking contractors with credit cards, known as Voyager Cards, to pay for fuel.  This settlement resolves allegations that BBT misused Voyager Cards to purchase fuel on contracts that did not allow for their use, resulting in inflated charges in violation of the False Claims Act.

The settlement resolves allegations made in lawsuit filed under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act by Bobby Blizzard, a former BBT employee.  The False Claims Act permits private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and obtain a portion of the government’s recovery.  Mr. Blizzard’s share of the recovery has yet to be determined.

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort between the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, and the USPS, Office of the Inspector General.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the District of New Jersey, is captioned United States ex rel. Doe v. Beam Bros. Trucking, Inc., Civil Action No. 10-657 (D.N.J.).  The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Pennsylvania Hospital and Cardiology Group Agree to Pay $20.75 Million to Settle Allegations of Kickbacks and Improper Financial Relationships

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

UPMC Hamot (Hamot), a hospital based in Erie, Pennsylvania – and now affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) – and Medicor Associates Inc. (Medicor), a regional physician cardiology practice, have agreed to pay the government $20,750,000 to settle a False Claims Act lawsuit alleging that they knowingly submitted claims to the Medicare and Medicaid programs that violated the Anti‑Kickback Statute and the Physician Self‑Referral Law, the Justice Department announced today.  Hamot became affiliated with UPMC after the conduct resolved by the settlement occurred.

The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting, or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and other federally funded programs.  The Physician Self-Referral Law, commonly known as the Stark Law, prohibits a hospital from billing Medicare for certain services referred by physicians with whom the hospital has an improper compensation arrangement.  Both 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 and is instead based on the best interests of the patient.

The settlement resolves allegations brought in a whistleblower action filed under the False Claims Act alleging that, from 1999 to 2010, Hamot paid Medicor up to $2 million per year under twelve physician and administrative services arrangements which were created to secure Medicor patient referrals.  Hamot allegedly had no legitimate need for the services contracted for, and in some instances the services either were duplicative or were not performed.

“Financial arrangements that improperly compensate physicians for referrals encourage physicians to make decisions based on financial gain rather than patient needs,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler, head 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.”

The lawsuit was filed by Dr. Tullio Emanuele, who worked for Medicor from 2001 to 2005, under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act.  The Act permits private parties to sue on behalf of the government when they believe that defendants submitted false claims for government funds and to share in any recovery.  The Act also allows the government to take over the case or, as in this case, the whistleblower to pursue it.  In a March 15, 2017 ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania held that two of Hamot’s arrangements with Medicor violated the Stark Law.  The case was set for trial when the United States helped to facilitate the settlement.  Dr. Emanuele will receive $6,017,500.

“Federal law prohibits physicians from entering into financial relationships that may affect their medical judgment and drive up health care costs,” said U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady.  “Today’s settlement demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that health care decisions are made based exclusively on the needs of the patient, rather than the financial interests of health care providers.”

This matter was handled on behalf of the government by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, the Justice Department’s Civil Division, and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Emanuele v. Medicor Associates, Inc. et al., Civil Action No. 10-cv-00245-JFC (W.D. Pa.).  The False Claims Act claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

United States Files False Claims Act Complaint Against Compounding Pharmacy, Private Equity Firm, and Two Pharmacy Executives Alleging Payment of Kickbacks

Friday, February 23, 2018

The United States has filed a complaint in intervention against Diabetic Care Rx LLC d/b/a Patient Care America (PCA), a compounding pharmacy located in Pompano Beach, Florida, alleging that the pharmacy paid illegal kickbacks to induce prescriptions for compounded drugs reimbursed by TRICARE, the Department of Justice announced today.  The government has also brought claims against Patrick Smith and Matthew Smith, two pharmacy executives, and Riordan, Lewis & Haden Inc. (RLH), a private equity firm based in Los Angeles, California, which manages both the pharmacy and the private equity fund that owns the pharmacy, for their involvement in the alleged kickback scheme.

TRICARE is a federally-funded health care program for military personnel and their families.  The government alleges that the Defendants paid kickbacks to marketing companies to target TRICARE beneficiaries for prescriptions for compounded pain creams, scar creams, and vitamins, without regard to the patients’ medical needs.  According to the complaint, the compound formulas were manipulated by the Defendants and the marketers to ensure the highest possible reimbursement from TRICARE.  The Defendants and marketers allegedly paid telemedicine doctors to prescribe the creams and vitamins without seeing the patients, and sometimes paid the patients themselves to accept the prescriptions.  The scheme generated tens of millions of dollars in reimbursements from TRICARE in a matter of months, according to the complaint, which alleges that the Defendants and marketers split the profits from the scheme.

“The Department of Justice is determined to hold accountable health care providers that improperly use taxpayer funded health care programs to enrich themselves,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Chad A. Readler.  “Kickback schemes corrupt the health care system and damage the public trust.”

“Providers and marketers that engage in kickback schemes drive up the cost of health care because they focus on their own bottom line instead of what is in the best interest of patients,” said Executive Assistant Randy Hummel of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  “We will hold pharmacies, and those companies that manage them, responsible for using kickbacks to line their pockets at the expense of taxpayers and federal health care beneficiaries.”

“The Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) is committed to protecting the integrity of TRICARE, the military health care program that provides critical medical care and services to Department of Defense beneficiaries,” said Special Agent in Charge John F. Khin, of the Southeast Field Office.  “In partnership with DOJ and other law enforcement agencies, DCIS continues to aggressively investigate fraud and corruption to preserve and recover precious taxpayer dollars to best serve the needs of our warfighters, their family members, and military retirees.”

The lawsuit, United States ex rel. Medrano and Lopez v. Diabetic Care Rx, LLC dba Patient Care America, et al., No. 15-CV-62617 (S.D. Fla.), was originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida by Marisela Medrano and Ada Lopez, two former employees of PCA.  The lawsuit was filed under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private parties to sue for false claims against of the United States and to receive a share of any recovery.  The Act permits the United States to intervene in such lawsuits, as the United States has done in this case.

This matter was investigated by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit.

The claims asserted against the defendants are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

Chemed Corp. and Vitas Hospice Services Agree to Pay $75 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations Relating to Billing for Ineligible Patients and Inflated Levels of Care

Monday, October 30, 2017

Chemed Corporation and various wholly-owned subsidiaries, including Vitas Hospice Services LLC and Vitas Healthcare Corporation, have agreed to pay $75 million to resolve a government lawsuit alleging that defendants violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by submitting false claims for hospice services to Medicare.  Chemed, which is based in Cincinnati, Ohio, acquired Vitas in 2004. Vitas is the largest for-profit hospice chain in the United States.

“Today’s resolution represents the largest amount ever recovered under the False Claims Act from a provider of hospice services,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Medicare’s hospice benefit provides critical services to some of the most vulnerable Medicare patients, and the Department will continue to ensure that this valuable benefit is used to assist those who need it, and not as an opportunity to line the pockets of those who seek to abuse it.”

The settlement resolves allegations that between 2002 and 2013 Vitas knowingly submitted or caused to be submitted false claims to Medicare for services to hospice patients who were not terminally ill.  Medicare’s hospice benefit is available for patients who elect palliative treatment (medical care focused on the patient’s relief from pain and stress) for a terminal illness and have a life expectancy of six months or less if their disease runs its normal course.  Patients who elect the hospice benefit forgo the right to curative care (medical care focused on treating the patient’s illness).  The government’s complaint alleged that Vitas billed for patients who were not terminally ill and thus did not qualify for the hospice benefit.  The government alleged that the defendants rewarded employees with bonuses for the number of patients receiving hospice services, without regard to whether they were actually terminally ill and whether they would have benefited from continuing curative care.

The settlement also resolves allegations that between 2002 and 2013, Vitas knowingly submitted or caused to be submitted false claims to Medicare for continuous home care services that were not necessary, not actually provided, or not performed in accordance with Medicare requirements.  Under the Medicare hospice benefit, providers may be reimbursed for four different levels of care, including continuous home care services.  Continuous home care services are only for patients who are experiencing acute medical symptoms causing a brief period of crisis.  The reimbursement rate for continuous home care services is the highest daily rate that Medicare pays, and hospices are paid hundreds of dollars more on a daily basis for each patient they certify as having received continuous home care services rather than routine hospice services.  According to the complaint, the defendants set goals for the number of continuous home care days billed to Medicare and used aggressive marketing tactics and pressured staff to increase the volume of continuous home care claims, without regard to whether the patients actually required this level of crisis care.

“This litigation and settlement demonstrate the commitment of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate and pursue hospice providers engaging in practices that abuse the Medicare hospice benefit,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Thomas M. Larson of the Western District of Missouri.  “The integrity of the Medicare program must not be compromised by a hospice provider’s financial self-interest.”

Vitas also entered into a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) to settle the agency’s administrative claims.

Steve Hanson, Special Agent in Charge, for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Kansas City Region, stated, “Healthcare providers who knowingly overbill our programs simply to increase their profits need to be put on notice that such conduct will not be tolerated, and we will pursue any and all remedies at our disposal to protect the tax payer and the Medicare and Medicaid programs.”

In addition to resolving the lawsuit filed by the United States, the settlement resolves three lawsuits filed under the whistleblower provision of the 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 Act permits the United States to intervene in such a lawsuit, as it did in the three whistleblower cases filed against the defendants.  These cases were subsequently transferred to the Western District of Missouri and consolidated with the government’s pending action.  The amount to be recovered by the private whistleblowers has not yet been determined.

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort among the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri, with assistance from the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Central District of California and the Northern District of Texas and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

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

The civil lawsuits are:  United States v. Vitas Hospice Services, LLC, et al., Civil Action No. 13-00449 (W.D. Mo.); United States ex rel. Laura Spottiswood v. Chemed Corporation, et al., Civil Action No. 13-505 (W.D. Mo.), transferred from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois; United States ex rel. Barbara Urick v. VITAS HME Solutions, Inc., et al., Civil Action No. 13-536 (W.D. Mo.), transferred from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas; and United States ex rel. Charles Gonzales v. VITAS Healthcare Corporation, et al., Civil Action No. 13-00344 (W.D. Mo.), transferred from the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Western New York Contractors and Two Owners to Pay More Than $3 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Alden, New York-based contractors, Zoladz Construction Company Inc. (ZCCI), Arsenal Contracting LLC (Arsenal), and Alliance Contracting LLC (Alliance), along with two owners, John Zoladz of Darien, New York, and David Lyons of Grand Island, New York, have agreed to pay the United States more than $3 million to settle allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by improperly obtaining federal set-aside contracts designated for service-disabled veteran-owned (SDVO) small businesses, the Justice Department announced today.    

“Contracts are set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses so to afford veterans with service-connected disabilities the opportunity to participate in federal contracting and gain valuable experience to help them compete for future economic opportunities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Every time an ineligible contractor knowingly pursues and obtains such set-aside contracts, they are cheating American taxpayers at the expense of service-disabled veterans.”

To qualify as a SDVO small business, a service-disabled veteran must own and control the company.  The United States alleged that Zoladz recruited a service-disabled veteran to serve as a figurehead for Arsenal, which purported to be a legitimate SDVO small business but which was, in fact, managed and controlled by Zoladz and Lyons, neither of whom is a service-disabled veteran.  The United States alleged that Arsenal was a sham company that had scant employees of its own and instead relied on Alliance and ZCCI employees to function.  After receiving numerous SDVO small business contracts, Arsenal is alleged to have subcontracted nearly all of the work under the contracts to Alliance, which was owned by Zoladz and Lyons, and ZCCI, which was owned by Zoladz.  Neither Alliance nor ZCCI were eligible to participate in SDVO small business contracting programs.  Zoladz and Lyons are alleged to have carried out their scheme by, among other things, making or causing false statements to be made to the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) regarding Arsenal’s eligibility to participate in the SDVO small business contracting program and the company’s compliance with SDVO small business requirements.

“Detecting and discontinuing fraud, waste, and abuse committed by those who do business with the government remains a core function performed in this Office,” said Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. for the Western District of New York. “That function, however, takes on additional significance when the target of the fraud is a program designed for the benefit of the heroes among us—our disabled veterans.  Although this investigation did not uncover sufficient evidence to establish criminal liability by these entities and individuals, the multi-million dollar civil judgment ensures that those involved pay a heavy price for their decision to divert to themselves resources intended for the benefit of those who have made supreme sacrifices on behalf of all.”

“This settlement demonstrates the commitment of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, the Department of Justice, and other law enforcement agencies to aggressively pursue individuals and companies that misrepresent themselves as service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses and deny legitimate disabled veterans the opportunity to obtain VA set-aside contracts,” said Inspector General, Michael J. Missal of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General (OIG).  “The VA OIG will continue to work diligently to protect the integrity of this important program, which is designed to aid disabled veterans.  I also want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners in this effort.”

“The contracting companies and principals allowed greed to corrupt a federal process intended to benefit service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses,” said Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Cohen of FBI Buffalo Field Office. “The FBI and our partners will continue to identify and investigate companies and individuals who target these types of programs for personal gain.”

The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed under the 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 civil lawsuit was filed in the Western District of New York and is captioned United States ex rel. Western New York Foundation for Fair Contracting, Inc. v. Arsenal Contracting, LLC, et al., Case No. 11-CV-0821(S) (W.D.N.Y.).  As part of today’s resolution, the whistleblower will receive $450,000.

“This case is yet another example of the tremendous results achieved through the joint efforts of the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Department of Justice, and partner agencies to uncover and forcefully respond to fraud in Federal Government contracting programs, such as the Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Program in this case,” said Christopher M. Pilkerton, General Counsel of the SBA.  “Identifying and aggressively pursuing instances of civil fraud by participants in these procurement programs is one of SBA’s top priorities.”

“Providing false statements to gain access to federal contracts set aside for service-disabled veterans denies the government opportunities to meet its abiding commitment to our nation’s veterans,” said Acting SBA Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware.  “The SBA’s Office of the Inspector General is committed to bringing those that lie to gain access to SBA’s preferential contracting programs to justice.  I want to thank the Department of Justice for its leadership and dedication to serving justice.”

“There is an obvious need and reason for service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses in the government contracting process,” said Director Frank Robey of the Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID), Major Procurement Fraud Unit.  “Special Agents from Army CID will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to make every contribution possible to bring persons to justice who violate that process.”

This matter was investigated by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York, the FBI, the VA’s Office of Inspector General, the SBA’s Office of Inspector General, and Army CID.

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

New York Hospital Operator Agrees to Pay $4 Million to Settle Alleged False Claims Act Violations Arising from Improper Payments to Physicians

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

MediSys Health Network Inc., which owns and operates Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and Flushing Hospital and Medical Center, two hospitals in Queens, New York, has agreed to pay $4 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by engaging in improper financial relationships with referring physicians, the Justice Department announced today.

The settlement resolves allegations that the defendants submitted false claims to the Medicare program for services rendered to patients referred by physicians with whom the defendants had improper financial relationships. These relationships took the form of compensation and office lease arrangements that did not comply with the requirements of the Stark Law, which restricts the financial relationships that hospitals may have with doctors who refer patients to them.

“This recovery should help to deter other health care providers from entering into improper financial relationships with physicians that can taint the physicians’ medical judgment, to the detriment of patients and taxpayers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

The lawsuit was filed by Dr. Satish Deshpande under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act. Under the Act, private citizens can bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery. Dr. Deshpande will receive $600,000 as his share of the recovery.

“Health care providers who enter into improper financial relations with referring physicians compromise the referral process and encourage over-utilization of services, to the potential detriment of both patients and taxpayers,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rohde for the Eastern District of New York. “We will hold health care providers accountable for their violations of federal law.”

“When hospital operators provide financial incentives to doctors for patient referrals, individuals rightfully wonder whose best interests are being served,” said Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert for U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “We will continue to investigate such entities who fraudulently bill government health programs.”

The case, United States ex rel. Deshpande, et al. v. The Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, et al., Case No. 13-cv-4030 (E.D.N.Y.), was handled by Senior Trial Counsel David T. Cohen of the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth M. Abell of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and Associate Counsel David Fuchs from HHS-OIG. The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

United States Files Civil Fraud Complaint Against Former Deutsche Bank Head of Subprime Mortgage Trading

Monday, September 11, 2017

Defendant Involved in the Sale of Over $1 Billion in Deutsche Bank Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities

The United States today filed a civil complaint in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, against Paul Mangione, former Deutsche Bank head of subprime trading. In its complaint, the United States alleges that Mangione engaged in a fraudulent scheme to misrepresent the characteristics of loans backing two residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) that Deutsche Bank sold to investors that resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. This suit is brought pursuant to the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) and seeks an appropriate civil penalty.

As alleged in the complaint, Mangione engaged in a fraudulent scheme to sell ACE 2007-HE4 (HE4) — a $ 1 billion security — and ACE 2007-HE5 (HE5) — a $400 million security — by misleading investors about the quality of the loans backing the securitizations. The complaint further alleges that Mangione also misled investors about the origination practices of Deutsche Bank’s wholly-owned subsidiary, DB Home Lending LLC (DB Home) (f/k/a Chapel Funding LLC), which was the primary originator of loans included in the deals. Mangione approved offering documents for HE4 and HE5 even though he knew they misrepresented key characteristics of the loans, including compliance with lending guidelines, borrowers’ ability to pay, borrowers’ fraud and appraisal accuracy.

The HE4 and HE5 offering documents also falsely represented that DB Home had “developed internal underwriting guidelines that it believe[d] generated quality loans” and that DB Home had instituted a quality control process that “monitor[ed] loan production with the overall goal of improving the quality of loan production,” among numerous other representations designed to instill in investors trust in DB Home’s underwriting processes. As alleged in the complaint, Mangione knew that these statements were false.

“The defendant fraudulently induced investors, including pension plans, religious organizations, financial institutions and government-sponsored entities, to name only a few, to invest nearly a billion and a half dollars in HE4 and HE5 RMBS, and caused them to suffer extraordinary losses as a result,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rohde for the Eastern District of New York. “We will hold accountable those who seek to deceive the investing public through fraud and misrepresentation.”

“The government’s complaint alleges that Mr. Mangione knew that certain of Deutsche Bank’s RMBS contained unsound mortgages that did not meet the credit or appraisal standards that the bank represented,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “By allegedly misleading investors about the riskiness of these securities, Mr. Mangione prioritized his and his employer’s bottom line over principles of honesty and fair dealing. The Department of Justice will continue to pursue those who engage in fraud as a way to conduct business.”

“As alleged in today’s filing, this individual knowingly took steps during the lead up to the financial crisis to sell defective mortgage loans while hiding the poor quality of the loans from investors,” said Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Rene Febles for the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of the Inspector General. “This conduct was deliberately fraudulent and resulted in significant losses for the investors. We are committed to working with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York to hold accountable those who engaged in fraud in the secondary market for mortgages.”

In January 2017, the Department of Justice settled a related RMBS matter with Deutsche Bank.

The United States’ case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward K. Newman and Ryan M. Wilson. Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rohde and Acting Assistant Attorney General Readler thanked the Office of the Inspector General for the Federal Housing Finance Administration for its assistance in conducting the investigation in this matter.

The Case number is E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-CV-5305 (NGG).

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.