Los Angeles Dentist Charged in Health Care Fraud Scheme

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Los Angeles, California-based dentist was charged in an indictment unsealed on Monday for his alleged participation in a health care fraud and identity theft scheme.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna of the Central District of California, Assistant Director in Charge Andrew W. Vale of the FBI’s Washington, D.C. Field Office and Assistant Director in Charge Paul D. Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office made the announcement.

Benjamin Rosenberg, D.D.S., 58, of Los Angeles, was charged with six counts of health care fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft.  Rosenberg was arrested yesterday morning and made his initial court appearance yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jean Rosenbluth of the Central District of California.

The indictment alleges that Rosenberg billed various insurance companies, including Medicaid-funded Denti-Cal, for dental procedures that were never provided.  Rosenberg allegedly billed the insurance companies by using patients’ identification without their permission.

An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington and Los Angeles Field Offices.  Trial Attorney Emily Culbertson of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is prosecuting the case.

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which is part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (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.

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.

Owner and Manager of New York Medical Equipment Provider Charged for Their Roles in Alleged $3.5 Million Scheme to Defraud Government-Funded Health Plans

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The owner and the manager of a purported durable medical equipment (DME) company in the Bronx, New York, were charged in an indictment unsealed today for their roles in an allegedly fraudulent scheme that involved submitting over $3.5 million in claims to private insurers, which included government-sponsored managed care organizations.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rohde of the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Scott Lampert of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Office of Investigations made the announcement.

Ikechukwu Udeokoro, 41, of West New York, New Jersey, and Ayodeji Fasonu, 51, of Stamford, Connecticut, the owner and manager, respectively, of Meik Medical Equipment and Supply LLC of the Bronx, were charged with one count of health care fraud in an indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York on Nov. 13.  The indictment was unsealed upon the arrest of the defendants this morning, and the defendants are expected to be arraigned this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the Eastern District of New York at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.  The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly.

According to the indictment, beginning in approximately December 2010 and continuing through at least February 2014, Udeokoro and Fasonu executed a scheme in which they submitted fraudulent claims to private insurers, including those that participated in Medicare Part C, for reimbursement for DME that was purportedly provided to the insurers’ members, many of whom were elderly or disabled and had insurance through Medicare Advantage plans or New York Medicaid Managed Care plans.  As part of the scheme, the defendants allegedly submitted claims to the private insurers for reimbursement for DME such as multi-positional patient support systems and combination sit-to-stand systems, when the defendants in fact provided the insurers’ members either nothing or a far less expensive product, such as a lift chair/recliner.

As alleged in the indictment, Meik Medical Equipment & Supply submitted more than $3.5 million in claims.

The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The FBI and HHS-OIG investigated the case, which was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.  Trial Attorney Andrew Estes of the Fraud Section is prosecuting the case.

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.  Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 3,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $12.5 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Miami-Area Man Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for Role in $63 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Miami-area man was sentenced to 60 months in prison today for his role in a $63 million health care fraud scheme involving a now-defunct community mental health center located in Miami that purported to provide partial hospitalization program (PHP) services to individuals suffering from mental illness.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Robert Lasky of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Shimon R. Richmond of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office made the announcement.

Samuel Konell, 70, of Boca Raton, Florida, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez of the Southern District of Florida.  Judge Martinez also ordered Konell to pay $9,921,726 in restitution and to forfeit certain substitute assets, including several pieces of jewelry, in partial satisfaction of a personal money judgment entered against the defendant in the amount of $432,829.  Konell pleaded guilty on Nov. 21, 2017, to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and receive health care kickbacks.

As part of his guilty plea, Konell admitted that from approximately January 2006 through June 2012, he received kickbacks and/or bribes in return for referring Medicare beneficiaries from the Miami-Dade state court system to Greater Miami Behavioral Healthcare Center Inc. (Greater Miami) to serve as patients.  He admitted that he coordinated with criminal defendants in the state court system to obtain court orders for mental health treatment in lieu of incarceration so that he could refer those individuals to Greater Miami to serve as patients in return for kickbacks and/or bribes.  Konell further admitted that he did so knowing that certain of those individuals were not mentally ill or otherwise did not meet the criteria for PHP treatment.

In addition, Konell admitted that he and his co-conspirators at Greater Miami took steps to disguise the true nature of the kickbacks and/or bribes that Greater Miami paid to Konell and other patient brokers. Specifically, Konell was placed on the Greater Miami payroll to make the kickbacks and/or bribes appear as though they were legitimate salary payments, he admitted.  Konell further admitted that he was originally paid a flat monthly rate that was based on the number of patients he referred to Greater Miami from the state court system, and when Konell referred more patients to Greater Miami, his co-conspirators found ways to pay him over and above his regular kickback payments, including by providing him with holiday bonuses.

In furtherance of the kickback conspiracy, Konell made representations to judges and others in the Miami-Dade state court system that the individuals he referred to Greater Miami received medically necessary PHP services from Greater Miami when in reality such services were not always needed, he admitted.

According to plea documents, Konell’s co-conspirators caused the submission of over $63 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare.  These claims were based on kickbacks and/or bribes paid to Konell and others and were for services that were medically unnecessary, were not eligible for Medicare reimbursement or were never provided by Greater Miami.  Konell admitted that his participation in the Greater Miami scheme resulted in the submission of claims to Medicare totaling between at least approximately $9.5 and $25 million.

Eleven other individuals have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced for their roles in the scheme, including the owner of Greater Miami, three administrators and seven patient brokers.

This case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  Former Senior Trial Attorney Christopher J. Hunter and Trial Attorneys Elizabeth Young and Leslie Wright of the Fraud Section prosecuted the case.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Adrienne Rosen of the Southern District of Florida is handling the forfeiture aspects of the case.

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are 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.

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.

Owner of Numerous Miami-Area Home Health Agencies Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Role in $66 Million Medicare Fraud Conspiracy

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The owner and operator of numerous Miami, Florida-area home health agencies was sentenced to 240 months in prison today for his role in a $66 million conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Robert F. Lasky of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Shimon R. Richmond of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Field Office made the announcement.

Rafael Arias, 52, of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga of the Southern District of Florida, who ordered Arias to pay $66.4 million in restitution and to forfeit the gross proceeds traced to the offense.  Arias pleaded guilty on Nov. 30, 2017, to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud.

“Today’s sentencing sends a clear message to anyone who is considering defrauding the Medicare system:  You will not only be caught, prosecuted, and sent to prison, but you will also have to pay back all of your ill-gotten gains,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.

“Arias assumed that in Medicare fraud lay a path to riches,” said Special Agent in Charge Richmond. “Instead he discovered that we are working tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to protect patients and taxpayers while holding criminals accountable for their unlawful actions.”

As part of his guilty plea, Arias admitted that, between December 2007 and September 2015, he was the owner and operator of more than 20 home health agencies.  In many cases, however, Arias recruited nominee owners to falsely and fraudulently represent themselves as the agencies’ owners to hide his identity and ownership interest.  Arias and his co-conspirators paid illegal bribes and kickbacks to patient recruiters to refer patients to these agencies, and submitted false and fraudulent home health care claims to Medicare for beneficiaries who, in many cases, did not qualify or for whom the services were never provided.  In addition, Arias provided checks to other individuals and entities to cash so that Arias and his co-conspirators could obtain fraud proceeds to benefit themselves and further the fraudulent scheme.

Arias was charged along with Aylen Gonzalez, 39, of Hialeah, Florida; Ana Gabriela Mursuli Caballero, 51, of Miami; and Rafael Cabrera, 51, of Miami, in a July 2017 indictment.  Gonzalez, a patient recruiter who owned a medical clinic and co-owned two home health agencies, pleaded guilty in November 2017 to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud and was sentenced to 180 months in prison.  Mursuli Caballero, a patient recruiter and owner of two home health agencies, pleaded guilty in October 2017 to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud and was sentenced to 115 months in prison.  Cabrera, who participated in laundering and concealing the proceeds from the fraud, pleaded guilty in November 2017 to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and was sentenced to 71 months in prison.

This case was investigated by the FBI and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  Trial Attorneys Angela Adams and Jessica Collins of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuted the case.

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.  Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 3,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $12.5 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Two New Orleans-Area Psychiatrists and a Health Care Marketer Charged for Roles in Kickback Scheme; Psychiatrists Also Charged With Health Care Fraud

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Two New Orleans, Louisiana-area psychiatrists and a third individual were charged in an indictment filed today for their alleged participation in a health care kickback scheme.  The two psychiatrists were also charged for their roles in a home health care fraud scheme.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans of the Eastern District of Louisiana, Special Agent in Charge Eric J. Rommal of the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office and Special Agent in Charge C.J. Porter of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Dallas Field Office made the announcement.

Muhammad Kaleem Arshad, M.D., 62, of New Orleans, Louisiana, Padmini Nagaraj, M.D., 60, of Kenner, Louisiana, and Joseph A. Haynes, 61, of New Orleans, were each charged with one count of conspiracy to receive illegal health care kickbacks and three counts of receiving illegal health care kickbacks.  Arshad and Nagaraj were also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and five counts of health care fraud.

The indictment alleges that the defendants, who were affiliated with a company that provides outpatient psychiatric services, conspired with the owner of a New Orleans home health agency to take bribes in exchange for referring psychiatric patients for medically unnecessary home health services. Haynes, who worked at the company as a marketer, allegedly helped to negotiate and enforce the bribes and kickbacks for the doctors.  The indictment further alleges that the New Orleans home health agency then submitted the fraudulent claims to Medicare to receive payment.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG.  Trial Attorney Kate Payerle of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is prosecuting the case.

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.

New York Doctor Sentenced to 13 Years in Prison for Multi-Million Dollar Health Care Fraud

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A New York surgeon who practiced at hospitals in Brooklyn and Long Island was sentenced today to 156  months in prison for his role in a scheme that involved the submission of millions of dollars in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue of the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Scott Lampert of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Office of Investigations made the announcement.

Syed Imran Ahmed M.D., 51, of Glen Head, New York, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dora L. Irizarry of the Eastern District of New York, who also ordered Ahmed to pay $7,266,008.95 in restitution, to forfeit $7,266,008.95, and to pay a $20,000 fine.  Ahmed was convicted in July 2016 after an 11-day trial of one count of health care fraud, three counts of making false statements related to health care matters and two counts of money laundering.

“Medicare is a crucial program for many of the most vulnerable people in our society – American seniors and those with disabilities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.  “In this case, Syed Ahmed put his own greed ahead of the trust we put in our medical professionals, draining over $7 million in precious funding from our Medicare program.  His conviction and the sentence imposed in this case demonstrate the Department of Justice’s unwavering commitment to protecting public funds and the integrity of our health care system.”

“Dr. Syed Ahmed treated Medicare like a personal piggy bank, stealing over $7.2 million by making fraudulent claims for medical procedures he never performed,” stated U.S. Attorney Donoghue.  “Dr. Ahmed will now pay the price for violating the trust that Medicare places in doctors.  His 13-year prison sentence and the heavy payments imposed should send a powerful message of deterrence to other medical professionals who would seek to defraud vital taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare for personal enrichment.  This Office, together with our law enforcement partners, will remain vigilant in rooting out health care fraud.”

“Health care fraud is often billed as a victimless crime, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney.  “Someone is always left to foot the bill. Insurers, the insured, and others are the ones who pay the price. Those who employ these schemes will most certainly be brought to justice, as we’ve proven here today.”

“The fraud scheme that Dr. Ahmed engaged in was motivated by pure greed,” said Special Agent in Charge Lampert.  “HHS OIG and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively pursue all those who seek to unlawfully enrich themselves by victimizing participants of the Medicare program.”

According to evidence presented at trial, Ahmed, a surgeon who practiced at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream, and Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, New York, billed the Medicare program for incision-and-drainage and wound debridement procedures that he did not perform.  Ahmed wrote out lists of phony surgeries and sent the lists to his billing company in Michigan with instructions that they be billed to Medicare.  Ahmed also directed that the surgeries be billed as though they had taken place in an operating room so as to increase the payout for the fraudulent scheme, the evidence showed.

The evidence introduced at trial showed that Medicare paid over $7 million to Ahmed for fraudulent claims.

The FBI and HHS-OIG investigated the case, which was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.  Trial Attorney Debra Jaroslawicz of the Fraud Section, Assistant U.S. Attorney F. Turner Buford, formerly a Fraud Section trial attorney, and Senior Litigation Counsel Patricia Notopoulos of the Eastern District of New York are prosecuting the case.

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.  Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 3,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $12.5 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.