Oklahoma Doctor Agrees to Pay $580,000 to Settle Allegations of Submitting False Claims to Medicare

Monday, August 28, 2017

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – Dr. Gordon P. Laird has agreed to pay $580,000 to settle civil claims stemming from allegations that he violated the False Claims Act by submitting false claims to the Medicare program, announced Mark A. Yancey, United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.

Laird is a physician licensed in the State of Oklahoma. He is a former owner and employee of the companies Blackwell Feet Plus, LLC, and Feet Plus, LLC, which later did business as Prevention Plus.

The United States alleges Laird caused false claims to be submitted to the Medicare Program for services he did not provide or supervise. First, the United States alleges that in 2011, he allowed Prevention Plus to use his National Provider Identifier numbers (NPIs) to bill Medicare for evaluation and management physical therapy services that he did not provide or supervise. Second, the United States alleges that in December 2011, he separated from Prevention Plus, did not provide any additional services for Prevention Plus, and deactivated his NPIs associated with Prevention Plus. However, Laird reactivated his NPIs associated with Prevention Plus around March 2012 so Prevention Plus could use them to bill Medicare for services in January and February 2012 that he did not perform or supervise.

To resolve these allegations, Laird agreed to pay $580,000. In reaching this settlement, he did not admit liability, and the government did not make any concessions about the legitimacy of the claims. The agreement allows the parties to avoid the delay, expense, inconvenience, and uncertainty involved in litigating the case.

This case was investigated by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Scott Maule and Ronald R. Gallegos prosecuted the case.

Pain Management Doctor Pleads Guilty in Health Care Fraud Case

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Acting United States Attorney Steve Butler of the Southern District of Alabama announced today that Dr. Rassan M. Tarabein, 58, a neurologist residing in Fairhope, Alabama, pled guilty before Chief United States District Judge Kristi K. DuBose to one count of health care fraud and one count of unlawful distribution of a schedule II controlled substance.  As part of his plea agreement, Dr. Tarabein will no longer be able to practice medicine and prescribe controlled substances in the United States.  Chief Judge DuBose has scheduled sentencing for March 2, 2018.  Dr. Tarabein faces up to ten years in prison for health care fraud and up to twenty years in prison for unlawfully distributing a controlled substance.

On June 28, 2017, a federal grand jury for the Southern District of Alabama returned a 22–count superseding indictment against Dr. Tarabein, charging him with health care fraud, making false statements relating to health care matters, lying to a federal agent, unlawfully distributing schedule II controlled substances, and money laundering.   He was arrested two days later.

Dr. Tarabein previously operated the Eastern Shore Neurology and Pain Center, a private clinic in Daphne, Alabama where he offered services relating to neurology and pain management, such as spinal injections.  In his plea agreement, Dr. Tarabein admitted that from around 2004 to May 2017, he ran an insurance scam in which he induced patients to visit his clinic so that he could bill health care benefit programs for medically unnecessary tests and procedures.  The purpose of Dr. Tarabein’s admitted scheme was to maximize personal financial gain by fraudulently seeking payments from health care benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and other private insurers.  As part of his guilty plea, Dr. Tarabein admitted to violating the traditional standards of care in his medical practice by, for example, failing to provide informed consent to patients about procedures, discriminating against Alabama Medicaid patients in services rendered, fraudulently documenting patient records, submitting false claims to insurance companies, and issuing prescriptions for schedule II controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose.

Dr. Tarabein has pending state criminal charges in Montgomery County, Alabama.  On June 16, 2017, a state grand jury returned a 2–count indictment against Dr. Tarabein, charging him with Medicaid fraud and theft of property in the first degree, each a felony offense.  On September 20, 2017, Dr. Tarabein is expected to plead guilty in state court to Medicaid fraud.

Acting United States Attorney Butler stated, “Today’s guilty plea reinforces our office’s dedication to protecting the public from corrupt physicians.  Doctors who exploit patients through medically unnecessary services to line their own pockets have no place in our health care system.  I commend the investigators who unraveled Dr. Tarabein’s scam for their commitment to uproot health care fraud.”

Attorney General Steve Marshall stated, “I am pleased that my Medicaid Fraud Control Unit had the opportunity to team with our federal law enforcement colleagues to investigate and bring to justice this defendant who not only violated his oath to his patients, but stole taxpayer money set aside to provide care for our most vulnerable citizens.  I am grateful to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama for its speedy resolution of the federal charges, as this defendant is held to account for his actions.”

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Lasky stated, “The FBI stands ready to work alongside our state, local, and federal partners to eliminate prescription drug abuse.  When doctors place money before the well-being of their patients, this task becomes nearly impossible.  This guilty plea is a testament to all the hard work and cooperation between the agencies that conducted this investigation.”

“The abuse of prescription drugs is a serious problem in our communities.  All too often, this abuse leads to addiction, shattered lives, and even death.  For the health and safety of our citizens, DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to target those who illegally distribute these potentially dangerous drugs.  We hope that the conviction of Dr. Tarabein serves as a reminder to anyone who might illegally divert pharmaceuticals that they will be held accountable for the harm they cause,” said Stephen G. Azzam, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s New Orleans Field Division.

“Today’s plea should serve as a wake-up call to those who intend to bill the government for medically unnecessary services and thereby enriching their own bottom line,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG).  “The nation is facing a very serious prescription drug crisis and the OIG, along with our state and federal law enforcement partners, take allegations such as these very seriously.”

The FBI, DEA, OIG, and Alabama Medicaid Fraud Control Unit are investigating the federal case.  Assistant United States Attorneys Sinan Kalayoglu and Gregory A. Bordenkircher are prosecuting the federal case in coordination with the Office of the Alabama Attorney General, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.  Assistant Attorney General Bruce M. Lieberman is prosecuting the state case.

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

Friday, August 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Dental Clinic Chain to Pay $1.3 Million to Resolve Allegations of Overbilling Medicaid

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

BOSTON – The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office announced today that Dental Dreams, LLC, a national dental chain with locations in Massachusetts, has agreed to pay $1.375 million to resolve allegations that it improperly billed the Massachusetts Medicaid program (MassHealth) for unnecessary and unjustifiable dental procedures.

“Dental Dreams enriched itself at taxpayer expense by improperly billing Medicaid,” said Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that federal and state health care dollars are spent properly.”

“This dental chain’s extensive improper billing violated state regulations and cost our state’s Medicaid program more than a million dollars,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. “As a result of this joint investigation, today’s settlement provides restitution to MassHealth and ensures that these funds are properly used to benefit its members.”

“Medicaid is designed to provide health care services to some of the most vulnerable members of our society and it’s our agency’s mission to ensure government health funds are spent properly,” said Special Agent in Charge Phillip M. Coyne of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. “Working with our Federal and State partners, we will continue to hold accountable any medical professional who, just to enrich themselves, bills Medicaid for more intensive and expensive services than those actually provided.”

“The company took advantage of a vulnerable patient population when it submitted claims to MassHealth for medically unnecessary and unreasonable dental procedures,” said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division. “Today’s settlement underscores the FBI’s commitment to investigate health care providers who overbill federal and private health insurance programs to maximize profits. We urge anyone with information regarding overbilling practices to contact us.”

The settlement resolves allegations that Dental Dreams overbilled the Massachusetts Medicaid program for surgical extractions of teeth and for a specific kind of oral examination.

The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by a former employee under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permits private parties to sue on behalf of the government for false claims for government funds and to receive a share of any recovery.

Acting U.S. Attorney Weinreb, Massachusetts Attorney General Healey, HHS-OIG SAC Coyne and FBI SAC Shaw made the announcement today. The case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michelle Leung, Sonya Rao, and Kriss Basil of Weinreb’s Civil Division and Assistant Attorney General Stephany Collamore of Healey’s Medicaid Fraud Division.

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

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

California Resident Sentenced for Conspiracy to Commit Healthcare Fraud

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Acting U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that SUNYUP KIM, age 41, of Granada Hills, CA, was sentenced today after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud.

U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon sentenced KIM to 1 year and 1 day in prison along with $93,927 in restitution.

On June 11, 2015, KIM was indicted along with three other defendants in an 8-count indictment charging approximately $38 million in Medicare fraud.

According to court documents, the $38 million fraud scheme centering on the distribution of “talking glucose meters” that were not medically necessary and were often not even requested. KIM, along with the other 3 defendants, operated Care Concepts, LLC, which was based in Metairie, and Choice Home Medical Equipment and Supplies (Choice), which was based in Chatsworth, California. KIM and the other 3 defendants, paid kickbacks to workers at call centers in California and South Carolina, from which operators would cold-call Medicare recipients to convince them to accept talking glucose meters and related supplies. From 2007 through 2015, KIM and the other 3 defendants caused thousands of claims to be submitted to Medicare through Care Concepts and Choice, virtually all of which were fraudulent.

Acting U.S. Attorney Evans praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of Inspector General for the United States Department of Health and Human Services in investigating this matter. Assistant U. S. Attorneys Patrice Harris Sullivan and Jordan Ginsberg were in charge of the prosecution.

Doctor & Owner of Multiple Home Health Companies Sentenced in a nearly $60 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

Friday, August 18, 2017

DALLAS – Myrna S. Parcon, a/k/a “Merna Parcon,” 62, of Dallas and Ransome N. Etindi, 57, of Waxahachie, Texas, were sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle for their role in a nearly $60 million Medicare fraud scheme, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.

Parcon and Etindi each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Judge Boyle sentenced Parcon to 120 months in prison and ordered her to pay $51,497,930.87 in restitution. Judge Boyle sentenced Etindi to 30 months in prison and ordered him to pay $18,309.171.21 in restitution. They are scheduled to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on September 20, 2017.

Co-defendant Noble U. Ezukanma, 57, of Fort Worth, Texas, was convicted, following a five-day trial, in March 2017 of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and six counts of health care fraud and is awaiting sentencing. Co-defendants Oliva A. Padilla, 57, of Garland, Texas and Ben P. Gaines, 55, of Plano, Texas, have pleaded guilty to their role in the scheme and are awaiting sentencing. Lita S. Dejesus, 70, of Allen, Texas, also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $4,193,655.78 in restitution.

According to their pleas, Ezukanma, Parcon, and Dejesus owned/operated US Physician Home Visits (USPHV), a/k/a “Healthcare Liaison Professionals, Inc.” located on Viceroy Drive in Dallas. Parcon was the owner/manager and Ezukanma was a licensed medical doctor who had an ownership interest in USPHV. Both Ezukanma and Etindi provided their Medicare number to the company to use to submit Medicare claims. Dejesus served in various roles at USPHV, including overseeing Medicare billing.

Gaines formed A Good Homehealth (A Good), a/k/a “Be Good Healthcare, Inc.,” which was located in the same office as USPHV. Parcon, who owned and operated A Good, purchased the company through a “straw” buyer; both Gaines and Parcon concealed Parcon’s ownership. Parcon and Padilla formed Essence Home Health (Essence), a/k/a “Primary Angel, Inc.,” located on Midway Road in Addison, Texas. While the three companies appeared to be set up as three separate entities, the companies worked as one; the same employees often worked for all three companies and were often paid by all three companies.

According to the factual resumes for each defendant, from January 1, 2009 to approximately June 9, 2013, Ezukanma and Etindi certified 94% of the Medicare beneficiaries receiving home health services from A Good, and 65% of the Medicare beneficiaries receiving home health services from Essence. Had Medicare known of the true ownership and improper relationship between the three companies, Medicare would not have allowed these companies to enroll in the program and bill for services.

USPHV submitted billing under both Dr. Ezukanma’s and Dr. Etindi’s Medicare provider number, regardless of who actually performed the service. They billed at an alarming rate, generally billing for only the most comprehensive physician exam, and always adding a prolonged service code. USPHV submitted claims to Medicare for physician visits of 90 minutes or more, when most visits took only 15 to 20 minutes. Most all of USPHV patients came from home health companies soliciting certifications and recertifications for home health. More than 97% of USPHV Medicare patients received home health care, whether they needed it or not. The false certifications caused Medicare to pay more than $40 million for fraudulent home health services.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, the FBI, the and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and were brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Pfeifle prosecuted.

United States Recovers More Than $12 Million In False Claims Act Settlements For Alleged Kickback Scheme

Monday, August 21, 2017

United States will also pursue claims against Precision Lens, Paul Ehlen and Dr. Jitendra Swarup

Acting United States Attorney Gregory G. Brooker today announced that Sightpath Medical, Inc. (n/k/a Sightpath Medical, LLC) (“Sightpath”), TLC Vision Corporation (n/k/a TLC Vision (USA, LLC)) (“TLC”) (collectively the “Sightpath Entities”) and their former CEO, JAMES TIFFANY, have agreed to pay more than $12 million to the United States to resolve kickback allegations under the False Claims Act (“FCA”). The United States also intervened in an underlying lawsuit against the Cameron-Ehlen Group, Inc. d/b/a Precision Lens (“Precision Lens”), Precision Lens’ owner PAUL EHLEN, and JITENDRA SWARUP.

“Medicare beneficiaries depend on their physicians to make decisions based on sound medical judgment,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad Blumenfield. “Our office will take decisive action to address allegations that medical providers are receiving improper financial benefits that could influence medical decision making. We are grateful to our law enforcement partners for their excellent work in investigating this matter.”

“This settlement is an outstanding result and represents the third major False Claims Act case successfully handled by this Office in the last three months. These types of cases remain a top priority of our Office, I applaud the hard work and dedication of the Civil Frauds Unit and the agencies involved in the case,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Gregory Brooker.

“The FBI together with our law enforcement partners aggressively investigate companies and individuals who engage in kickback schemes at the expense of Medicare and other federal health care programs,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard T. Thornton of the Minneapolis Division. “Those who seek to exploit the nation’s health care system through fraud will be held accountable.”

According to the complaint, brought by a whistleblower, Sightpath and Precision Lens supply intraocular lenses, as well as ophthalmic surgical equipment and services to medical facilities. These products and services are used by ophthalmologists in connection with eye surgeries, including cataract surgeries performed in Ambulatory Surgical Centers and hospitals for which federal payers, such as Medicare, provide reimbursements. The complaint alleges that Precision Lens, EHLEN and the Sightpath Entities paid kickbacks to physicians in various forms, including travel, entertainment and improper consulting agreements. The complaint identifies multiple examples of trips including luxury skiing vacations and high-end fishing, golfing and hunting trips. The complaint also alleges that these various items of value were provided in order to induce the physicians to use Precision Lens’ and the Sightpath Entities’ products and services.

According to the settlement agreements, the United States contends that between January 1, 2006 and January 1, 2015, the Sightpath Entities provided physicians items of value to induce the use of Sightpath Entities’ products and services, which resulted in the submission of false claims to the United States for ophthalmological products and services. These items of value included hunting, skiing, fishing, and golf trips. Additionally, the Sightpath Entities entered into consulting agreements with physicians and physician practices for services that were never performed or not properly tracked, resulting in payments in excess of fair market value.

According to the settlement agreements, the United States further alleged that TIFFANY directed much of the conduct at issue, particularly between 2010 and 2013 when he was CEO of Sightpath and TLC, and that TIFFANY was directly involved in setting up and participating in several of the trips with physicians who were either Sightpath customers or potential customers. In addition, TIFFANY directly participated in establishing and continuing the lucrative consulting agreements with physicians and physician practices. The United States contends that by providing these items of value, the Sightpath Entities and TIFFANY knowingly induced physicians to utilize the Sightpath Entities’ products and services and submit false claims to the federal government. The claims were false because they were tainted by illegal kickbacks to the physicians, in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act.

These settlements resolve allegations filed in a civil lawsuit originally brought by a whistleblower under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private parties to bring suit on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery. The government often relies on whistleblowers to bring fraud schemes to light that might otherwise go undetected. The whistleblower in this matter, Kipp Fesenmaier, will receive 19.5 percent of the amounts recovered in connection with the settlement agreements.

As part of the FCA Agreement and in exchange for a release of OIG’s permissive exclusion authority, Sightpath has agreed to enter into a 5-year corporate integrity agreement (CIA) with OIG. Although not a signatory to the CIA, TLC is participating in the CIA as a “covered person.”

The United States has declined to intervene in the case against the other defendants named in the complaint. The claims resolved by these settlements are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability or wrongdoing.

The case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad A. Blumenfield of the Civil Frauds Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota with assistance from the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The case is United States ex rel. Fesenmaier v. Sightpath Medical, Inc. TLC Vision Corporation, The Cameron Ehlen Group, Inc. dba Precision Lens, et al., Civil No. 13-CV-3003 (RHK/FLN).

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dandong_chengtai_trading_-_complaint_-_august_2017.pdf

velmur_management_-_complaint_-_august_2017_4.pdf

Cleveland Doctor Sentenced in Hospice Fraud Case

Monday, August 14, 2017

OXFORD, Miss. – Robert H. Norman, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi; Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; Christopher Freeze, Special Agent in Charge at the Federal Bureau of Investigationand Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood announced that:

Dr. Nathaniel Brown, 62, of Cleveland, Mississippi, was sentenced Thursday, August 10, 2017 before United States District Judge Neal B. Biggers, Jr. in Oxford, Mississippi. Dr. Brown was sentenced to serve thirty-nine (39) months in federal prison followed by three (3) years supervised release and ordered to pay $1,941,254 in restitution to the Medicare program.

In January, Dr. Brown pled guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1347 & 1349. Brown admitted to referring patients who were not hospice appropriate to Milestone Hospice and Sandanna Hospice which led to $1,941,254 in Medicare payments to Milestone and Sandanna. Brown also admitted to receiving $47,750 in payments by check from the hospice owner in addition to cash payments.

Dr. Brown is a corrupt doctor who participated in a hospice scam to exploit patients and their families,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson, of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. “The verdict today should send a clear message to dishonest medical professionals who abuse our health care system – they will be caught and face significant criminal charges.”

“Joint investigations continue to be indispensable in the fight against fraud in healthcare benefit programs,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “We will continue to work with our federal and state partners in this ongoing battle to protect the resources needed to serve our most vulnerable citizens.”

“It is important the Medicare fund is properly guarded against inappropriate billing by health care providers, and patients are receiving those services billed to Medicare,” said Christopher Freeze, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Mississippi. “The FBI will continue to take a strong stance against individuals who engage in health care fraud.”

This case was investigated jointly by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Clay Dabbs and Clay Joyner.