Misr Sons Development S.A.E. Agrees to Pay $1.1 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Misr Sons Development S.A.E. (Hassan Allam Sons, “HAS”), a construction company with its principal place of business in Cairo, Egypt, has agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle allegations that HAS submitted false claims in connection with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contracts, the Justice Department announced today.

“Contractors who misrepresent their eligibility for government contracts undermine the government procurement process,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda of the Civil Division. “The Justice Department will take action to protect that process and to ensure that taxpayer funds are not misused.”

“USAID Office of Inspector General extensively investigated this matter and thanks the Department of Justice for its tenacity and dedication,” said Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Schofield of USAID Office of Inspector General. “Total settlements on this matter exceed $10 million and demonstrate once again that the United States expects its contractors to execute their awards in accordance with all requisite terms and conditions, whether operating domestically or overseas.”

The settlement concerns USAID-funded contracts for the construction of water and wastewater infrastructure projects in the Arab Republic of Egypt in the 1990s. The contracts were awarded to a joint venture partnership that included Washington Group International Inc. (WGI), Contrack International Inc. (Contrack) and HAS. The United States filed suit under the False Claims Act and the Foreign Assistance Act, alleging that HAS was ineligible to participate in the joint venture but that its participation was concealed from USAID. As a result, HAS and its partners allegedly received USAID-funded contracts to which they were not entitled. The settlement resolves only HAS’ liability. The United States previously settled with Contrack and WGI.

This settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho and the USAID Office of Inspector General.

The case is captioned United States v. Washington Group International Inc. f/k/a/ Morrison Knudsen, Corporation, Contrack International, Inc.; and Misr Sons Development S.A.E. a/k/a Hassan Allam Sons, No. 04-555 (D. Idaho). The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

Doctor And Son Admit Defrauding Medicare, Agree To $1.78 Million Settlement

 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

CAMDEN, N.J. – A doctor and his chiropractor son today admitted conspiring to defraud Medicare by using unqualified people to give physical therapy to Medicare recipients, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Robert Claude McGrath D.O., 65, and his son Robert Christopher McGrath, 47, both of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden federal court to separate informations charging them each with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

The McGraths, together with their practice, the Atlantic Spine & Joint Institute, have also agreed to pay $1.78 million as part of a civil settlement to resolve allegations that they illegally billed Medicare for those treatments.

“Elderly patients who need physical therapy deserve properly licensed and supervised caregivers,” Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick said. “Instead, the McGraths for years used unqualified and unsupervised employees to treat their patients, all while fraudulently billing Medicare for the phony services.”

“Patients undergoing physical therapy at the McGraths’ practice sought simply to feel and move better,” said Michael Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “It seems all the defendants sought was to enrich themselves at those patients’ – and U.S. taxpayers’ – expense. Medicare fraud deals a big blow to a critical piece of our health care system. Every dollar lost to bogus billing is a dollar less to use for legitimate treatments and services.”

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
The McGraths owned and operated Atlantic Spine & Joint Institute, a medical practice with offices in Westmont, New Jersey, and Wayne, Pennsylvania. Under Medicare rules, physical therapy had to be provided by Robert Claude McGrath or by a trained physical therapist under his supervision. However, from January 2011 through April 2016, the McGraths sought to defraud Medicare by employing unlicensed, untrained persons to give physical therapy to Medicare patients, at times when Robert Claude McGrath was not even in the office to supervise. They then submitted bills to Medicare fraudulently identifying Robert Claude McGrath as the provider of physical therapy.
The defendants each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2017.

“These criminals face serving time in prison as well as paying out a $1.78 million settlement,” said Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Additionally, my agency reserves the right to exclude both father and son from Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health programs.”

“People trust medical professionals to treat them and not cheat them,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark S. McCormack, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations’ Metro Washington Field Office. “Our office will continue to work with our federal law enforcement partners to pursue and bring to justice those who would exploit this vulnerable population.”

In the related civil settlement, also announced today, the McGraths and Atlantic Spine agreed to pay $1.78 million plus interest to the federal government to resolve allegations that the fraudulent bills submitted under the McGraths’ scheme caused false claims to be submitted to Medicare in violation of the False Claims Act.
The civil settlement resolves certain claims filed by Linda Stevens, a former billing manager at Atlantic Spine, in the District of New Jersey, under the federal False Claims Act. The federal False Claims Act contains a qui tam, or whistleblower, provision that permits whistleblowers to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims against the government, and to share in any recovery. Ms. Stevens will receive approximately $338,200 from the settlement proceeds, along with her attorney’s fees.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited agents of the FBI’s South Jersey Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Harpster in Philadelphia, special agents from the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Lampert, and special agents from the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge McCormack, with the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys R. David Walk Jr. and Andrew A. Caffrey III of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit represented the government in the criminal case and the civil case, respectively.

The New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office reorganized its health care practice in 2010 and created a stand-along Health Care and Government Fraud Unit to handle both criminal and civil investigations and prosecutions of health care fraud offenses. Since that time, the office has recovered more than $1.33 billion in health care and government fraud settlements, judgments, fines, restitution and forfeiture under the False Claims Act, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and other statutes.

Defense counsel:
Robert Christopher McGrath and Atlantic Spine & Joint Institute: Riza I. Dagli Esq., Roseland, New Jersey.
Robert Claude McGrath: Perry Primavera Esq., Hackensack, New Jersey
Counsel for Relator Linda Stevens: Brian J. McCormick Jr., Philadelphia

 

Medicare Advantage Organization & Former COO to Pay $32.5 Million

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Freedom Health Inc., a Tampa, Florida-based provider of managed care services, and its related corporate entities (collectively “Freedom Health”), agreed to pay $31,695,593 to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by engaging in illegal schemes to maximize their payment from the government in connection with their Medicare Advantage plans, the Justice Department announced today. In addition, the former Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Freedom Health Siddhartha Pagidipati, has agreed to pay $750,000 to resolve his alleged role in one of these schemes.

“When entering into agreements with managed care providers, the government requests information from those providers to ensure that patients are afforded the appropriate level of care,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Today’s result sends a clear message to the managed care industry that the United States will hold managed care plan providers responsible when they fail to provide truthful information.”

The government alleged that Freedom Health submitted or caused others to submit unsupported diagnosis codes to CMS, which resulted in inflated reimbursements from 2008 to 2013 in connection with two of their Medicare Advantage plans operating in Florida. It also alleged that Freedom Health made material misrepresentations to CMS regarding the scope and content of its network of providers (physicians, specialists and hospitals) in its application to CMS in 2008 to expand in 2009 into new counties in Florida and in other states. The government’s settlement with Mr. Pagidipati resolves his alleged role in this latter scheme.

“Medicare Advantage plans play an increasingly important role in our nation’s health care market,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen Muldrow. “This settlement underscores our Office’s commitment to civil health care fraud enforcement.”

“Medicare Advantage insurers must play by the rules and provide Medicare with accurate information about their provider networks and their patients’ health,” said Chief Counsel to the Inspector General Gregory Demske of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “OIG will investigate and hold managed care organizations accountable for fraud. Moving forward, the innovative CIA reduces the risks to patients and taxpayers by focusing on compliance issues unique to Medicare Advantage plans.”

The allegations resolved by these settlements were brought in a lawsuit under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the Federal False Claims Act and the Florida False Claims Act. These statutes permit private parties to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to receive a share of any recovery. The whistleblower in this action is Darren D. Sewell, who was a former employee of Freedom Health. The whistleblower’s share in this case has not yet been determined.

The corporate entities related to Freedom and which were part of today’s settlements are: Optimum HealthCare Inc., America’s 1st Choice Holdings of Florida LLC, Liberty Acquisition Group LLC, Health Management Services of USA LLC, Global TPA LLC, America’s 1st Choice Holdings of North Carolina LLC, America’s 1st Choice Holdings of South Carolina LLC, America’s 1st Choice Insurance Company of North Carolina Inc. and America’s 1st Choice Health Plans Inc.

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

The claims resolved by the settlements are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability. The case is captioned United States ex rel. Sewell v. Freedom Health, Inc., et al., Case No. 8:09-cv-1625 (M.D. Fla.).

USDOJ Grants and Grantees now in the Crosshairs

We see continuing signs of reinvigorated grant fraud enforcement.  The latest submisison involves a long simmering dispute that has resurfaced involving corporate fines that are recovered, allocated and spent by USDOJ.  USDOJ grants have been a source of frustration for supporters of the current Administration and some believe that white collar enforcement suffered as perverse incentives encouraged the offsets of criminal cases and terms of imprisonment in favor of large recoveries of fines from corporations (Does anyone from the cartel world recall the furious whispers about this case?).  Now there seems to be Trump Administration-led push to shine a media spotlight on USDOJ grants.  Typically, this foreshadows official actions:

Last night Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was on Fox News discussing the issue speaking in bellicose terms. This accompanied various news articles that covered various aspects of the dispute.

Today on Fox News there is a lengthy piece on the subject with sub links:

“It’s clear partisan politics played a role in the illicit actions that were made,” Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, told Fox News. “The DOJ is the last place this should have occurred.

Findings spearheaded by the House Judiciary Committee point to a process shrouded in secrecy whereby monies were distributed to a labyrinth of nonprofit organizations involved with grass-roots activism.”

To see how far some have delved into this issue, check out this google search.  You have to go to less established media sources like this InfoWars article referencing State Department grants to get a sense of where this could lead (some will need to don protective suits–oh what we have to do for risk analysis!).  Since there was not as much reporting as there could have been, it is likely this issue could get significant play now. There is also likely to be a convergence effect when problems in one grant tranch from one agency  spills over into other grant programs.

This latest resurfacing of this issue by White House allies suggests a trend and it will likely add to calls for a significant realignment of DOJ on the left side of the org chart and also in its mission in terms of how it helps victims. Particularly vulnerable to significant reform are CRS, OJP, COPS, Office of Violence Against Women (grants) (biannual report) and Office of Access to Justice.  Obviously, grants and grantees will be a subject of interest as well.

I have referenced a prior DOJ IG 2016 civil case here.  Designating an enforcement priority can change whether a case is criminal or civil because criminal investigation assets redeploy and there is often a multiplier effect because the combination of criminal and civil enforcement assets allows for parallel investigations.  Overnight,  a larger swath of FBI agents start trolling for footholds in grants or procurement areas.  Not good.  When investigators expand the duration or number of grants reviewed, when they send agents to do coordinated interviews while serving grand jury and inspector general subpoenas and when AUSA’s start calling witnesses before traditional grand jury investigations, things can change fast.

Two Medicare Companies to Forfeit Total of $12 Million to Settle False Claim Allegations

Cinnaminson, NJ- Two medical equipment companies and their brother-CEOs will forfeit a grand total of $12 million to settle False Claims allegations. Both companies, U.S. Healthcare Supply LLC and Oxford Diabetic Supply Inc., made unrequested phone calls to Medicare beneficiaries , seeking to sell them unnecessary medical equipment.

The DOJ post on the matter:

Diabetic Medical Equipment Companies to Pay More Than $12 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

U.S. Healthcare Supply LLC and Oxford Diabetic Supply Inc. and the two owners and presidents of those companies have agreed to pay the United States more than $12.2 million to resolve allegations that they violated the federal False Claims Act by using a fictitious entity to make unsolicited telephone calls to Medicare beneficiaries in order to sell them durable medical equipment, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.  U.S. Healthcare Supply LLC, based in Milford, New Jersey, has agreed to pay more than $5 million, and Jon P. Letko, its owner and president, has agreed to pay more than $1 million.  His brother, Edward J. Letko, the owner and president of Oxford Diabetic Supply Inc., a medical equipment supplier that allegedly also participated in the scheme, has agreed to pay $6 million plus interest.

“We will continue to hold health care providers accountable for attempting to circumvent Medicare statutes and regulations that help prevent the submission of claims for medically unnecessary services and supplies,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Arrangements which clearly disregard program requirements in order to enhance the financial interests of health care providers will not be tolerated.”

“Cold-calling people to sell them expensive medical equipment is prohibited for a reason: unsuspecting patients shouldn’t be coerced into making medical decisions about devices and equipment – which they may not even need – on the basis of a sales pitch,” said U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman for the District of New Jersey.

The settlement announced today resolves allegations that U.S. Healthcare Supply LLC and Oxford Diabetic Supply Inc. set up and controlled an entity called Diabetic Experts Inc., which they used to make unsolicited telephone calls to Medicare beneficiaries in order to sell them durable medical equipment.  The companies submitted claims to Medicare for the equipment that they sold based on these unsolicited calls.  This conduct violated the Medicare Anti-Solicitation Statute.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $30.5 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $18.4 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

 

 

GeyerGorey LLP is experienced in working with clients to successfully resolve the toughest, most complicated white collar criminal investigations, including FCPA, frauds including grant fraud and procurement fraud, and competition matters including antitrust and anti-dumping cases. Our partners all have over 20 years of senior level experience with the US Department of Justice and deep expertise in the field of federal white collar crimes. We know how the government’s enforcement agencies think and what they look for in these types of investigations. We use these insights to help our clients mount an effective and efficient defense that specifically addresses any red flags that federal agents look for when conducting an investigation. If your organization is under investigation, or you are concerned that an investigation may be launched, GeyerGorey LLP may be the right firm for you. Call Now +1 (888) 293-0644

Greentech Inc, OSI Pharmaceuticals Face $67 Million Settlement Fine, $10 Million to Whistleblower

Washington, D.C.-  Whistleblower Brian Shields of Greentech Inc. ignites investigations of Greentech Inc (San Francisco, CA) and OSI Pharmaceuticals LLC (Farmingdale, NY) following exposure of information into False Claims Act violations.  Both companies are alleged to have skewed reports of efficacy for anti-lung cancer drug Tarceva for the sake of kickback profit.  The two companies are now facing a $67 million settlement fee, $10 million of which will be rewarded to whistleblower Shields in accordance to SEC’s whistleblower program.

The original article is reproduced below with its link following.

 

Pharmaceutical Companies to Pay $67 Million To Resolve False Claims Act Allegations Relating to Tarceva

Pharmaceutical companies Genentech Inc. and OSI Pharmaceuticals LLC will pay $67 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations that they made misleading statements about the effectiveness of the drug Tarceva to treat non-small cell lung cancer, the Department of Justice announced today.  Genentech, located in South San Francisco, California, and OSI Pharmaceuticals, located in Farmingdale, New York, co-promote Tarceva, which is approved to treat certain patients with non-small cell lung cancer or pancreatic cancer.  OSI Pharmaceuticals LLC is the successor to OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc., which was acquired by Astellas Holding US Inc. in 2010 and converted to a limited liability company in 2011.

“Pharmaceutical companies have a responsibility to provide accurate information to patients and health care providers about their prescription drugs,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice will hold those companies accountable that mislead the public about the efficacy of their products.”

The settlement resolves allegations that, between January 2006 and December 2011,  Genentech and OSI Pharmaceuticals made misleading representations to physicians and other health care providers about the effectiveness of Tarceva to treat certain patients with non-small cell lung cancer, when there was little evidence to show that Tarceva was effective to treat those patients unless they also had never smoked or had a mutation in their epidermal growth factor receptor, which is a protein involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells.

As a result of today’s $67 million settlement, the federal government will receive $62.6 million and state Medicaid programs will receive $4.4 million.  The Medicaid program is funded jointly by the state and federal governments.

“This settlement demonstrates the government’s unwavering commitment to pursue violations of the False Claims Act and recover taxpayer dollars spent as a result of misleading marketing campaigns,” said U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch for the Northern District of California.

“Pharmaceutical companies that make misleading or unsubstantiated statements about their products can put patients at risk,” said Deputy Commissioner Howard R. Sklamberg for FDA’s global regulatory operations and policy. “The FDA will continue to work to protect the public’s health by ensuring that companies do not mislead healthcare providers about their products.”

“Drug manufacturers that make misleading claims about their product’s effectiveness can jeopardize the health of patients – in this case, cancer patients,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven J. Ryan for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  “Our agency will continue to protect both patients and taxpayers by holding those who engage in such practices accountable for their actions.”

The settlement resolves allegations filed in a lawsuit by former Genentech employee Brian Shields, in federal court in San Francisco.  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.  Shields will receive approximately $10 million.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $29.8 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $18.2 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

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 Northern District of California, with assistance from the HHS-OIG, the HHS Office of Counsel to the Inspector General, the HHS Office of the General Counsel-CMS Division, the FDA’s Office Chief Counsel, the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the Office of the Inspector General for the Office of Personnel Management, the FBI, the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General, the Office of the General Counsel for the Defense Health Agency and the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Shields v. Genentech, Inc., et al., Case No.  CV 11 0822 MEJ (N.D. Ca.).  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Original Link

Fifty-One Hospitals Pay United States More Than $23 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations Related to Implantation of Cardiac Devices

The Department of Justice has reached settlements with 51 hospitals in 15 states for more than $23 million related to cardiac devices that were implanted in Medicare patients in violation of Medicare coverage requirements, the Department of Justice announced today.  These settlements represent the final stage of a nationwide investigation into the practices of hundreds of hospitals improperly billing Medicare for these devices.  With these additional agreements, the Justice Department’s investigation has now yielded settlements with more than 500 hospitals totaling more than $280 million.

“These settlements demonstrate the Department’s continued vigilance in pursuing hospitals and health systems that violate Medicare’s national coverage rules,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “We will hold accountable those who do not abide by the government’s rules in order to protect the federal fisc and, more importantly, patient health.”

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD, is an electronic device that is implanted near and connected to the heart.  It detects and treats chaotic, extremely fast, life-threatening heart rhythms, called fibrillations, by delivering a shock to the heart, restoring the heart’s normal rhythm.  It is similar in function to an external defibrillator (often found in offices and other buildings) except that it is small enough to be implanted in a patient’s chest.  Only patients with certain clinical characteristics and risk factors qualify for an ICD covered by Medicare.

Medicare coverage for the device, which costs approximately $25,000, is governed by a National Coverage Determination (NCD).  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services implemented the NCD based on clinical trials and the guidance and testimony of cardiologists and other health care providers, professional cardiology societies, cardiac device manufacturers and patient advocates.  The NCD provides that ICDs generally should not be implanted in patients who have recently suffered a heart attack or recently had heart bypass surgery or angioplasty.  The medical purpose of a waiting period – 40 days for a heart attack and 90 days for bypass/angioplasty – is to give the heart an opportunity to improve function on its own to the point that an ICD may not be necessary.  The NCD expressly prohibits implantation of ICDs during these waiting periods, with certain exceptions.  The Department of Justice alleged that from 2003 to 2010, each of the settling hospitals implanted ICDs during the periods prohibited by the NCD.

“The settlements announced last October and today demonstrate the Department of Justice’s commitment to protect Medicare dollars and federal health benefits,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida.  “Guided by a panel of leading cardiologists and the review of thousands of patients’ charts, the extensive investigation behind the settlements was heavily influenced by evidence-based medicine.  In terms of the number of defendants, this is one of the largest whistleblower lawsuits in the United States and represents one of this office’s most significant recoveries to date.   Our office will continue to vigilantly protect the Medicare program from potential false billing claims.”

“We will not stand idly by while Medicare coverage rules are ignored,” said Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  “OIG worked closely with the Department of Justice to ensure such violators made substantial payments to settle these false billing claims.”

The department previously settled with 457 hospitals for more than $250 million.

The settlements announced today involve 51 hospitals, which are listed on the attached chart.  Most of the settling defendants were named in a qui tam, or whistleblower, lawsuit brought under the False Claims Act, which permits private citizens to bring lawsuits on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of the proceeds of any settlement or judgment awarded against a defendant.  The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in the Southern District of Florida by Leatrice Ford Richards, a cardiac nurse and Thomas Schuhmann, a health care reimbursement consultant.  The whistleblowers have received more than $3.5 million from the settlements announced today.

The settlements were the result of a coordinated effort among the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida and HHS-OIG’s Office of Investigations and Office of Counsel to the Inspector General.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $27.4 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $17.4 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

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

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

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

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

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

Nation’s Largest Nursing Home Therapy Provider, Kindred/Rehabcare, to Pay $125 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

Four Nursing Homes Using Kindred/RehabCare to Pay an Additional $8.225 Million

Contract therapy providers RehabCare Group Inc., RehabCare Group East Inc. and their parent, Kindred Healthcare Inc., have agreed to pay $125 million to resolve a government lawsuit alleging that they violated the False Claims Act by knowingly causing skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) to submit false claims to Medicare for rehabilitation therapy services that were not reasonable, necessary and skilled, or that never occurred, the Department of Justice announced today.

RehabCare Group Inc. and RehabCare Group East Inc. were purchased by the Louisville, Kentucky-based Kindred Healthcare Inc. in 2011 and they now operate under the name RehabCare as a division of Kindred.  RehabCare is the largest provider of therapy in the nation, contracting with more than 1,000 SNFs in 44 states to provide rehabilitation therapy to their patients.

“Medicare beneficiaries are entitled to receive care that is dictated by their clinical needs rather than the fiscal interests of healthcare providers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “All providers, whether contractors or direct billers of taxpayer-funded federal healthcare programs, will be held accountable when their actions cause false claims for unnecessary services.”

The government’s complaint alleged that RehabCare’s policies and practices, including setting unrealistic financial goals and scheduling therapy to achieve the highest reimbursement level regardless of the clinical needs of its patients, resulted in Rehabcare providing unreasonable and unnecessary services to Medicare patients and led its SNF customers to submit artificially and improperly inflated bills to Medicare that included those services.  Specifically, the government’s complaint alleged that RehabCare’s schemes included the following:

  • 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;
  • During the period prior to Oct. 1, 2011, boosting the amount of reported therapy during “assessment reference periods,” thereby causing and enabling SNFs to bill for the care of their Medicare patients at the highest therapy reimbursement level, while providing materially less therapy to those same patients outside the assessment reference periods, when the SNFs were not required to report to Medicare the amount of therapy RehabCare was providing to their patients (a practice known as “ramping”);
  • Scheduling and reporting the provision of therapy to patients even after the patients’ treating therapists had recommended that they be discharged from therapy;
  • Arbitrarily shifting the number of minutes of planned therapy among different therapy disciplines (i.e., physical, occupational and speech therapy) to ensure targeted therapy reimbursement levels were achieved, regardless of the clinical need for the therapy;
  • Especially after Oct. 1, 2011 and continuing through Sept. 30, 2013, providing significantly higher amounts of therapy at the very end of a therapy measurement period not due to medical necessity but rather to reach the minimum time threshold for the highest therapy reimbursement level, to enable SNFs to bill for the care of their Medicare patients accordingly, even though the patients were receiving materially less therapy on preceding days;
  • Inflating initial reimbursement levels by reporting time spent on initial evaluations as therapy time rather than evaluation time;
  • Reporting that skilled therapy had been provided to patients when in fact the patients were asleep or otherwise unable to undergo or benefit from skilled therapy (e.g., when a patient had been transitioned to palliative end-of-life care); and
  • Reporting estimated or rounded minutes instead of reporting the actual minutes of therapy provided.

“This False Claim Act settlement addresses allegations that RehabCare and its nursing facility customers engaged in a systematic and broad-ranging scheme to increase profits by delivering, or purporting to deliver, therapy in a manner that was focused on increasing Medicare reimbursement rather than on the clinical needs of patients,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz for the District of Massachusetts.  “The complaint outlines the extent and sophistication of this fraud, and the government’s continuing work to ensure that the provision of care in skilled nursing facilities is based on patients’ clinical needs.”

“Health providers seeking to increase Medicare profits, rather than providing suitable, high-quality care, will be investigated and prosecuted,” said Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  “Under our robust compliance agreement, an outside review organization will scrutinize a random sample of medical records annually to assess the medical necessity and reasonableness of therapy services provided by RehabCare.”

In addition to RehabCare, the Department of Justice also announced settlements today with four SNFs for their role in submitting claims to Medicare that were false because they were based in part on therapy provided by RehabCare that was not reasonable, necessary and skilled, or that did not occur.  These settlements include:  A $3.9 million settlement with Wingate Healthcare Inc. and 16 of its facilities in Massachusetts and New York; A $2.2 million settlement with THI of Pennsylvania at Broomall LLC and THI of Texas at Fort Worth LLC; A $1.375 million settlement with Essex Group Management and two of its Massachusetts facilities, Brandon Woods of Dartmouth and Blaire House of Milford and a $750,000 settlement with Frederick County, Maryland, which formerly operated the Citizens Care skilled nursing facility.  The department had previously reached settlements with a number of other SNFs for similar conduct.  See http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/two-companies-pay-375-million-allegedly-causing-submission-claims-unreasonable-or-unnecessaryhttp://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/episcopal-ministries-aging-inc-pay-13-million-allegedly-causing-submission-claimshttp://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/pr/new-york-catholic-nursing-chain-pay-35-million-resolve-allegations-concerning-claimshttp://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/pr/maine-nursing-home-pay-12-million-resolve-allegations-concerning-rehabilitation-therapy.

The settlement with RehabCare resolves allegations originally brought in a lawsuit filed under the qui tam, or whistleblowerprovisions of the False Claims Act by Janet Halpin, a physical therapist and former rehabilitation manager for RehabCare and Shawn Fahey, an occupational therapist who worked for RehabCare.  The act permits private parties to sue on behalf of the government for false claims for government funds and to receive a share of any recovery.  The government may intervene and file its own complaint in such a lawsuit, as it has done in this case.  The whistleblowers will receive nearly $24 million as their share of the recovery from RehabCare.

The settlements announced today illustrate the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $27.1 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $17.1 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.  Tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, including the conduct described in the United States’ complaint, can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

This matter was handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts; HHS Office of Inspector General and the FBI.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Halpin and Fahey v. Kindred Healthcare, Inc., et al., Case No. 1:11cv12139-RGS (D. Mass.).

The claims settled are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

URS E & C Holdings, Inc. Agrees to Pay $9 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

URS E & C Holdings Inc., a successor in interest to the global design and construction company Washington Group International Inc. (WGI), has agreed to pay $9 million to settle allegations that WGI submitted false claims in connection with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) contracts, the Justice Department announced today.

“Contractors who misrepresent their eligibility for government contracts undermine the government procurement process,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The Justice Department will take action to protect that process and to ensure that taxpayer funds are not misused.”

“Government contractors must be honest and forthright,” said U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson for the District of Idaho.  “This settlement protects the integrity of the federal procurement process.  Whether a situation involves procurement fraud, as in this case, or healthcare fraud or any other type of fraud and dishonesty, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho seeks to hold those obtaining public funds accountable.”

The settlement concerns USAID-funded contracts for the construction of water and wastewater infrastructure projects in the Arab Republic of Egypt in the 1990s.  The contracts were awarded to a joint venture partnership between WGI, Contrack International Inc. (Contrack) and Misr Sons Development S.A.E. (HAS), an Egyptian company.  The United States filed suit under the False Claims Act and the Foreign Assistance Act, alleging that prior to the award of those contracts, the joint venture partners concealed from USAID that Contrack and HAS were partners in the venture, thus preventing USAID from evaluating their qualifications and eligibility, which was a precondition to contract award.  As a result, WGI and its partners allegedly received USAID-funded contracts for which they were ineligible.  The settlement resolves only WGI’s liability.  The United States previously settled with Contrack and is continuing to pursue its claims against HAS.

This settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Department of Justice, Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho; and the USAID Office of Inspector General.

The case is United States v. Washington Group International Inc. f/k/a/ Morrison Knudsen, Corporation, Contrack International, Inc.; and Misr Sons Development S.A.E. a/k/a Hassan Allam Sons, No. 04-555 (D. Idaho).  The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

%d bloggers like this: