Former Employee of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan Sentenced to Prison for Soliciting Approximately $320,000 in Bribes From Contractors

Thursday, March 8, 2018

A former employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) based in Afghanistan was sentenced today to 100 months in prison for soliciting approximately $320,000 in bribes from Afghan contractors in return for his assistance in U.S. government contracts.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney John E. Childress of the Central District of Illinois; Special Agent in Charge Sean Cox of the FBI’s Springfield, Illinois Field Office; Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko; Special Agent in Charge Michael Mentavlos of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s (DCIS) Southwest Field Office and Director Frank Robey of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s (CID) Major Procurement Fraud Unit (MPFU) made the announcement.

Mark E. Miller, 49, of Springfield, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard H. Mills of the Central District of Illinois, who also ordered Miller to serve three years of supervised release following his prison sentence and forfeit $180,000 and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  Miller previously pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging him with seeking and receiving bribes.

As part of his guilty plea, Miller admitted that he worked for the USACE from 2005 until 2015, including in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2012, and maintained a residence in Springfield during that time.  From February 2009 to October 2011, Miller was assigned to a military base, Camp Clark, in eastern Afghanistan.  He was the site manager and a contracting officer representative for a number of construction projects in Afghanistan.

On Dec. 10, 2009, the USACE awarded a contract worth approximately $2.9 million to an Afghan construction company for the construction of a road from eastern Afghanistan to the Pakistani border.  This contract later increased in value to approximately $8,142,300.  Miller oversaw the work of the Afghan company on this road project, including verifying that the company performed the work called for by the contract and, if so, authorizing progress payments to the company by the USACE, he admitted.

Also as part of his guilty plea, Miller admitted that, in the course of overseeing the contract with the Afghan company, he solicited from the owners of the company approximately $280,000 in bribes in return for making things easier for the company on the road project, including making sure the contract moved along and was not terminated.  He further admitted that, after the contract was no longer active, he solicited an additional $40,000 in bribes in return for the possibility of future contract work and other benefits.

This matter was investigated by the FBI, DCIS, SIGAR and Army CID-MPFU, with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Fort Worth Division.  Trial Attorney Daniel Butler of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Harris of the Central District of Illinois are prosecuting the case.

Former CEO of Tennessee-Based Telemarketing Company Pleads Guilty to Misrepresenting Health Insurance Plans

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The former owner and chief executive officer of a Nashville, Tennessee-based telemarketing company pleaded guilty this morning to overseeing a fraudulent scheme in which limited-benefit health plans were sold to consumers as traditional health insurance, and to violating a federal court order that in 2010 froze his assets and shut down the company, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Don Cochran of the Middle District of Tennessee.

Timothy Thomas, 55, of Brentwood, Tennessee, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of contempt before U.S. District Judge David Lawson, sitting by designation in the Middle District of Tennessee.  He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Lawson on June 25.  Thomas was charged in a 15-count indictment filed in October 2014.

According to admissions made as part of his plea, Thomas operated and controlled United Benefits of America (UBA) LLC, which was known at various times as United States Benefits (USB) and Health Care America.  From at least 2007 to 2010, Thomas hired salespeople to sell over the phone so-called “association memberships” created by third-party companies such as International Association of Benefits and Consumer Driven Benefits of America.  These memberships included bundled benefits, such as limited benefit health plans, prescription drug discount cards, accidental death and dismemberment benefits and lifestyle benefits, such as rental car discounts.  Thomas targeted his sales to customers who had been denied traditional health insurance because of preexisting conditions, he admitted.  The sales script used by Thomas attempted to portray the memberships as equal in quality to traditional health insurance, omitting the fact that limited benefit health plans left customers with the vast majority of the financial risk.

Thomas admitted that salespeople working for him made even more flagrant misrepresentations and omissions and used terms such as “deductibles” and “copays” to make customers believe they were buying traditional health insurance.  Customer service employees and the Better Business Bureau routinely notified Thomas about customers complaining that they had been deceived into believing the plans were similar to traditional health insurance.  Thomas oversaw a lax compliance program that was understaffed, with usually one employee monitoring up to 60 or 70 salespeople, and levied only occasional fines to salespersons who misrepresented or omitted key details of the plans.  Despite knowing of the rampant misrepresentations and omissions, Thomas rarely fired salespeople for lying to customers, but routinely fired salespeople for low sales numbers, he admitted.  When in 2009 a local news station, WSMV, ran a critical story on UBA featuring undercover footage of salespeople discussing misleading sales tactics, Thomas did not institute any meaningful changes in business practices.  He merely changed the name of his company from UBA to USB and instructed a subordinate to sign a letter to the Better Business Bureau falsely claiming that the companies had nothing to do with each other.

When the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit against Thomas and his company in August 2010, a federal judge in the Middle District of Tennessee issued an order freezing Thomas’s assets and placing his company into receivership.  Immediately after being informed of the court’s order, Thomas violated it by withdrawing more than $100,000 from a brokerage account and convincing a friend to deposit checks totaling $528,647, constituting proceeds of the scheme, into the friend’s bank account, he admitted.

As part of his plea agreement, Thomas agreed to forfeit $1.5 million, representing the amount he personally gained through the fraudulent scheme.

The case was investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General and the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration.  The FTC and Tennessee Division of Insurance provided substantial assistance.  Trial Attorney William E. Johnston of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Cecil VanDevender of the Middle District of Tennessee are prosecuting the case.

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

Thursday, February 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Detroit Doctor Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for Role in $10.4 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Detroit, Michigan-area doctor was sentenced to 72 months in prison today for his role in a $10.4 million conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan, Acting Special Agent in Charge Timothy Waters of the FBI’s Detroit Division and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office made the announcement.

Mahmoud Rahim, M.D., 65, of West Bloomfield, Michigan, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmonds of the Eastern District of Micihgan.  Judge Edmonds also ordered the defendant to forfeit $1,679,505.  The restitution amount will be determined at a later hearing.

After a one-week trial in September 2017, Rahim was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, one count of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to receive health care kickbacks and two counts of receiving healthcare kickbacks.  According to the evidence presented at trial, Rahim accepted kickbacks from his co-conspirators in exchange for referring Medicare patients for electromyogram tests (EMGs), some of which were unnecessary, and physical therapy performed by unlicensed individuals.  Rahim disguised these payments as “rent” and set up a shell company to hide this illegal scheme.

Rahim was charged along with office manager Janet Nahkle, 58, of Dearborn, Michigan, in an indictment returned in June 2016.  Nakhle pleaded guilty to conspiracy to receive health care kickbacks in December 2016 and was sentenced to serve 18 months in prison.

The FBI and HHS-OIG investigated the case, which was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.  Fraud Section Trial Attorneys Jessica Collins and Amy Markopoulos prosecuted the case.

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

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

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan Doctor and Owner of Medical Billing Company Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for $26 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Detroit-area doctor was sentenced to 180 months in prison today for his role in a $26 million health care fraud scheme that involved billing Medicare for nerve block injections that were never provided and efforts to circumvent Medicare’s investigation of the fraudulent scheme.  A co-conspirator who owned a medical billing company was previously sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel L. Lemisch of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios of the FBI’s Detroit Division, Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office and Special Agent in Charge Manny Muriel of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.

Johnny Trotter M.D., 42, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge George C. Steeh of the Eastern District of Michigan.  The owner of the medical billing company, Elaine Lovett, 61, of Detroit, was sentenced by Judge Steeh on Sept. 26.  Judge Steeh also ordered each defendant to pay $9,199,946 in restitution and scheduled a hearing tomorrow on forfeiture.  Trotter and Lovett were convicted in April 2017 after a four-week jury trial of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, and three counts of health care fraud.  Trotter was remanded to custody pending a detention hearing tomorrow.

According to the evidence presented at trial, from May 2008 until May 2014, Trotter and Lovett knowingly submitted fraudulent bills for services that they knew had not been provided, mainly nerve block injections.  Additionally, after Medicare imposed a requirement in 2009 that required Trotter’s claims to undergo a medical review prior to payment, Trotter and Lovett conspired to circumvent Medicare’s fraud investigation of Trotter by creating sham medical practices, the evidence showed.  To continue to receive payment for services that were not provided, Trotter and Lovett concealed their involvement with these practices from Medicare, and instead recruited their family members and employees to serve as straw owners of the companies, the evidence further showed.

The FBI, HHS-OIG and IRS-CI investigated the case, which was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.  Fraud Section Assistant Chiefs Malisa Dubal and Allan Medina, as well as Trial Attorneys Tom Tynan and Jacob Foster, prosecuted the case.

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

Owner of Florida Pharmacy Pleads Guilty in $100 Million Compounding Pharmacy Fraud Scheme; Real Properties, Cars and a 50-Foot Boat Will Be Forfeited

Monday, November 6, 2017

Seven Others Previously Pleaded Guilty

The president and owner of a Florida pharmacy that was at the center of a massive compounding pharmacy fraud scheme, which impacted private insurance companies, Medicare and TRICARE, pleaded guilty today for his role in the scheme.  Seven other individuals have previously pleaded guilty in connection to the scheme.  Various real properties, cars and a 50-foot boat will be forfeited as part of the guilty pleas.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Eric W. Sporre of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Robert F. Lasky of the FBI’s Miami Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Shimon Richmond of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office and Resident Agent in Charge Brooke Harris of the U.S. Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s (DCIS) Tampa Regional Office made the announcement.

Nicholas A. Borgesano Jr., 45, of New Port Richey, Florida, the president and owner of A to Z Pharmacy of New Port Richey, pleaded guilty in the Middle District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions involving criminally derived property.  His sentencing will be scheduled before U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr of the Middle District of Florida.

According to admissions made as part of his plea agreement, Borgesano owned and operated numerous pharmacies and shell companies that he and his co-conspirators used to execute a fraud scheme involving prescription compounded medications.  The scheme generated over $100 million in fraud proceeds, he admitted.  Borgesano acquired and controlled A to Z Pharmacy in New Port Richey, Havana Pharmacy, Medplus/New Life Pharmacy and Metropolitan Pharmacy, all of Miami; and Jaimy Pharmacy and Prestige Pharmacy, both of Hialeah, Florida.  He admitted using these pharmacies to cause the submission of false and fraudulent reimbursement claims for prescription compounded medications, chiefly pain creams and scar creams, to private insurance companies, Medicare and TRICARE.  Borgesano admitted that he and his co-conspirators manipulated billing codes in the reimbursement claims and submitted reimbursement claims for pharmaceutical ingredients they did not have.  Borgesano and his co-conspirators also paid kickbacks and bribes in exchange for prescriptions and patient identifying information used to further the scheme, including to a physician in exchange for the physician signing prescriptions for patients he never saw.  Borgesano admitted using A to Z Pharmacy as the hub of his operation on behalf of all his pharmacies.  He disbursed proceeds of the fraud scheme through a variety of methods, including by check and wire transfer to co-conspirators’ shell companies and through the purchase of assets, he admitted.

In addition to Borgesano, the following defendants have previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud for their roles in the scheme:

  • Bradley Sirkin, 55, of Boca Raton, Florida;
  • Scott P. Piccininni, 49, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida;
  • Edwin Patrick Young, 49, of New Port Richey, Florida;
  • Wayne M. Kreisberg, 40, of Parkland, Florida;
  • Matthew N. Sterner, 48, of New Port Richey, Florida;
  • Peter B. Williams, 57, of New Port Richey, Florida; and
  • Joseph Degregorio, 71, of New Port Richey, Florida

The cars that will be forfeited include a 1936 Ford Deluxe, a 1964 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, a 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and a 2008 Lamborghini convertible.  The boat that will be forfeited is a 2009 50’7” Cigarette racing boat.   The cars and boat had previously been seized.  The combined equity in the real properties, cars and boat that will be forfeited is over $7.6 million.  The real properties, cars and boat had been purchased with proceeds from the fraud scheme.

This case was investigated by the FBI with support from HHS-OIG and DCIS and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.  The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Christopher J. Hunter and Trial Attorney Timothy P. Loper of the Fraud Section.

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

Former CEO of Arthrocare Corporation Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Role in $750 Million Securities Fraud Scheme

Friday, November 3, 2017

The former chief executive officer of ArthroCare Corporation, a publicly traded medical device company based in Austin, Texas, was sentenced today to 240 months in prison for his role in orchestrating a fraud scheme that resulted in shareholder losses of over $750 million.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Richard L. Durbin Jr. of the Western District of Texas and Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the FBI’s San Antonio Field office made the announcement.

Michael Baker, 58, of Austin, Texas, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of the Western District of Texas, who also ordered Baker five years of supervised release following his prison sentence and to pay a fine in the amount of $1 million and to forfeit $13.7 million.  At the sentencing hearing, the Court found that investors lost more than $750 million as a result of the fraud scheme.  On Aug. 18, after a two-week re-trial, Baker was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and securities fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, two counts of securities fraud and two counts of making false statements.

Evidence at trial showed that, beginning in 2005 and continuing until 2009, Baker, along with his co-conspirators, masterminded and executed a scheme to artificially inflate sales and revenue through a series of end-of-quarter transactions involving several of ArthroCare’s distributors.  Baker, along with his co-conspirators, determined the type and amount of product to be shipped to distributors based on ArthroCare’s need to meet Wall Street analyst forecasts, rather than distributors’ actual orders.  Baker and others then caused ArthroCare to “park” millions of dollars’ worth of ArthroCare’s medical devices at its distributors at the end of each relevant quarter.  ArthroCare reported these shipments as sales in its quarterly and annual filings at the time of the shipment, enabling the company to meet or exceed internal and external earnings forecasts.

The trial evidence further showed that ArthroCare’s distributors agreed to accept shipment of millions of dollars of products in exchange for special conditions, including substantial, upfront cash commissions, extended payment terms and the ability to return products, allowing ArthroCare to falsely inflate revenue by tens of millions of dollars.  In the case of ArthroCare’s largest distributor, DiscoCare, Baker caused ArthroCare to acquire DiscoCare specifically to conceal from the investing public the nature and financial significance of ArthroCare’s relationship with DiscoCare.  In addition to falsely inflating ArthroCare’s revenue, Baker lied when he was deposed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in November 2009 about ArthroCare’s relationship with DiscoCare, the evidence showed.

Baker’s earlier conviction was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, resulting in the retrial.  The sentence imposed on Baker today of 20 years imprisonment is identical to the sentence he received after his first trial.

Co-conspirators David Applegate and John Raffle, both former senior vice presidents of ArthroCare, pleaded guilty to multiple felonies in 2013 in connection with their participation in the scheme.  Co-conspirator Michael Gluk, former chief financial officer of ArthroCare, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and securities fraud on June 14, in connection with his participation in the scheme.

On Aug. 29, 2014, Raffle was sentenced to 80 months in prison.  On Aug. 29, 2014, Applegate was sentenced to 60 months in prison.  Gluk’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 5, 2018.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s San Antonio Field Office.  The case is being prosecuted by Securities and Financial Fraud Unit Chief Benjamin D. Singer, Assistant Chief Henry P. Van Dyck and Trial Attorney Caitlin Cottingham of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Owner of Two New York Medical Clinics Sentenced to 84 Months for Her Role in $55 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

Friday, September 15, 2017

The owner of two Brooklyn, New York, medical clinics was sentenced today to 84 months in prison for her role in a $55 million health care fraud scheme.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rohde of the Eastern District of New York, Special Agent in Charge Scott Lampert of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS OIG) Office of Investigations, Special Agent in Charge James D. Robnett of the IRS Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) New York Field Office and Inspector General Dennis Rosen of the New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG) made the announcement.

Valentina Kovalienko, 47, of Brooklyn, and the owner of Prime Care on the Bay LLC and Bensonhurst Mega Medical Care P.C., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf of the Eastern District of New York, who also ordered Kovalienko to forfeit $29,336,497. Kovalienko pleaded guilty in October 2015 to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

As part of her guilty plea, Kovalienko acknowledged that her co-conspirators paid cash kickbacks to patients to induce them to attend her two clinics.  Kovalienko also admitted that she submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid for services that were induced by prohibited kickback payments to patients or that were unlawfully rendered by unlicensed staff.  Kovalienko also wrote checks from the clinics’ bank accounts to third-party companies, which purported to provide services to the clinics, but which in fact were not providing services, and the payments were instead used to generate the cash needed to pay the illegal kickbacks to patients, she admitted.

Twenty other individuals have pleaded guilty in connection with this case, including the former medical directors of Prime Care on the Bay LLC and Bensonhurst Mega Medical Care P.C., six physical and occupational therapists, three ambulette drivers, the owner of several of the sham companies used to launder the money and a former patient who received illegal kickbacks.

HHS-OIG, IRS-CI and OMIG investigated the case, which was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.  Acting Assistant Chief A. Brendan Stewart of the Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney F. Turner Buford of the Eastern District of New York, formerly a Fraud Section trial attorney, are prosecuting the case.

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

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