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

Monday, March 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alabama Resident and Ringleader of Multi-Million Dollar Stolen Identity Tax Refund Fraud Schemes Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Over 8,800 Identities Stolen from the U.S. Army, Alabama State Agencies and Georgia Businesses

A Phenix City, Alabama, resident was sentenced today to 30 years in prison for his role in masterminding multiple stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF) schemes, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr. of the Middle District of Alabama.

William Anthony Gosha III, a/k/a Boo Boo, was convicted, following a jury trial in November 2017, of one count of conspiracy, 22 counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and 25 counts of aggravated identity theft.

According to the evidence presented at trial and sentencing, between November 2010 and December 2013, Gosha ran a large-scale identity theft ring with his co-conspirators, Tracy Mitchell, Keshia Lanier, and Tamika Floyd, who were all previously convicted and sentenced to prison.  Together they filed over 8,800 tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that sought more than $22 million in fraudulent refunds of which the IRS paid out approximately $9 million.

In November 2010, Gosha stole IDs of inmates from the Alabama Department of Corrections and provided the IDs to Lanier who used the information to seek fraudulent tax refunds.  Gosha and Lanier agreed to split the proceeds.  Gosha also stole employee records from a company previously located in Columbus, Georgia.  In 2012, Lanier needed an additional source of stolen IDs and approached Floyd, who worked at two Alabama state agencies in Opelika, Alabama: the Department of Public Health and the Department of Human Resources.  In both positions, Floyd had access to the personal identifying information of individuals, including teenagers.  Lanier requested that Floyd primarily provide her with identities that belonged to sixteen and seventeen year-olds.  Floyd agreed and provided thousands of names to Lanier and others at Lanier’s direction.

After receiving the additional stolen IDs, Gosha recruited Mitchell and her family to help file the fraudulent tax returns.  Mitchell worked at a hospital located at Fort Benning, Georgia, where she had access to the personal identification information of military personnel, including soldiers who were deployed to Afghanistan.  She stole soldiers’ IDs and used their information to file fraudulent returns.

In order to electronically file the fraudulent returns, Gosha, Lanier, and their co-conspirators applied for several Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFIN) with the IRS in the names of sham tax preparation businesses.  Gosha, Lanier, and their co-conspirators then used these EFINs to file the returns and obtain tax refund related bank products from various financial institutions, which provided them with blank check stock.  Gosha and his co-conspirators initially printed out the fraudulently obtained refund checks using the blank check stock.

However, the financial institutions halted Gosha’s and his co-conspirators’ ability to print checks.  As a result, they recruited U.S. Postal employees who provided Gosha and others with addresses on their routes to which the fraudulent refund checks could be directly mailed.  In exchange for cash, these postal employees intercepted the refund checks and provided them to Gosha, Lanier, Mitchell and others.  Gosha also directed tax refunds to prepaid debit cards and had those cards sent to addresses he controlled.

In addition, between January 2010 and December 2013, Gosha participated in a separate SIRF scheme with Pamela Smith and others, in which Gosha sold the IDs that he had stolen from the Alabama Department of Corrections to Smith and others.  Smith and others used the IDs to file returns that sought approximately $4.8 million in fraudulent refunds of which the IRS paid out approximately $1.85 million.  Smith also has been convicted and sentenced to prison for this conduct.

At Gosha’s sentencing, the government offered victim impact statements from several individuals whose identities were stolen, and from companies and governmental agencies where the identity theft breaches occurred.  An Alabama Department of Public Health representative noted, the identity theft was not only devastating financially, but it also had a chilling effect on the department’s ability to serve the residents of the State of Alabama.  A mother of a young U.S. Army soldier who was an identity theft victim described the consequences of the fraud on her and her family, stating:

While [my son] was fighting for our country and all back home[,] I received a very disturbing phone call from [an] Agent [] from the IRS that my son[,] while at Ft. Benning training to defend our country[,] the land of the free[,] had his identity stolen and fraudulent tax returns were filed with his social security number.  This news was devastating to think that my [] 19-year-old son[,] who was defending the very freedom this country stands [for] [,] was wronged by one of those people [he] was willing to die for.  My whole family could not believe what was happening.  We now had to worry about this terrible act by one of our own.  As I tried my best to keep composed and handle all of the gruesome mounds of paperwork to get this straightened out with the IRS, [my son] was then denied his tax refund [as result of this scheme].  This created a financial hardship on [him].  We were too afraid to tell [him] while he was deployed because we did not want to worry him and we wanted him to focus only on getting home alive and not have to worry about such an atrocious act by someone who did not even know [him].

In addition to the term of imprisonment, U.S. Chief District Court Judge Keith Watkins ordered Gosha to serve three years of supervised release and to pay restitution in the amount of $9,052,049.

Prior to Gosha’s sentencing, thirty of his co-conspirators have been sentenced, including Keisha Lanier who received 15 years and Tracy Mitchell who received over 13 years.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman and U.S. Attorney Franklin commended special agents of Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General who investigated this case and Trial Attorneys Michael C. Boteler and Gregory P. Bailey of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Ross of the Middle District of Alabama, who prosecuted the case.

Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.

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

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

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

The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting, or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and other federally funded programs.  The Physician Self-Referral Law, commonly known as the Stark Law, prohibits a hospital from billing Medicare for certain services referred by physicians with whom the hospital has an improper compensation arrangement.  Both the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law are intended to ensure that a physician’s medical judgment is not compromised by improper financial incentives and is instead based on the best interests of the patient.

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

“Financial arrangements that improperly compensate physicians for referrals encourage physicians to make decisions based on financial gain rather than patient needs,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice is committed to preventing illegal financial relationships that undermine the integrity of our public health programs.”

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

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

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

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

New Orleans Woman Convicted for Role in $3.2 Million Medicare Kickback Scheme

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A federal jury found a New Orleans woman guilty today for her role in an approximately $3.2 million Medicare fraud and kickback scheme.

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

After a three-day trial, Sandra Parkman, 61, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, two counts of health care fraud and five counts of accepting kickbacks.  Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 17, 2018, before U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt of the Eastern District of Louisiana, who presided over the trial.

According to evidence presented at trial, from 2004 to 2009, Parkman and others engaged in a scheme to provide medically unnecessary durable medical equipment, including power wheelchairs, to Medicare beneficiaries in and around New Orleans.  The evidence showed that Parkman received kickback payments from the equipment supply company in return for providing eligible Medicare beneficiaries’ personal information to the company, as well as to obtain physican signatures on order forms.

As a result of the scheme, Parkman’s co-defendant, Tracy Richardson Brown, caused Medicare to pay over $3.2 million based on those illegally obtained referrals, the evidence showed.

Brown was previously convicted following a trial in June 2016 and was sentenced to 48 months in prison.

This case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG.  Trial Attorneys Kate Payerle and Jared Hasten of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.

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

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chief Executive Officer of Armored Vehicle Company Sentenced to More Than Five Years in Prison for Role in Scheme to Defraud the United States

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The owner and chief executive officer of an armored vehicle company was sentenced today to 70 months in prison for his role in orchestrating a scheme to defraud the United States by providing the U.S. Department of Defense with armored gun trucks that did not meet ballistic and blast protection requirements set out in the company’s contracts with the United States.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Rick A. Mountcastle of the Western District of Virginia, Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Lee of the FBI’s Richmond, Virginia, Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Craig Jr. of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s (DCIS) Mid-Atlantic Field Office made the announcement.

William Whyte, 72, of King City, Ontario, the owner and CEO of Armet Armored Vehicles of Danville, Virginia, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jackson L. Kiser of the Western District of Virginia, who also ordered Whyte to serve three years of supervised release following his prison sentence and to pay restitution in the amount of $2,019,454.36.

On Oct. 9, 2017, after a two-week trial, Whyte was found guilty of three counts of major fraud against the United States, three counts of wire fraud and three counts of criminal false claims.  Whyte was charged by an indictment in July 2012.

Evidence at trial demonstrated that Whyte executed a scheme to defraud the United States by providing armored gun trucks that were deliberately under-armored.  Armet contracted to provide armored gun trucks for use by the United States and its allies as part of the efforts to rebuild Iraq in 2005.  Despite providing armored gun trucks that did not meet contractual specifications, Whyte and his employees represented that the armored gun trucks were adequately armored in accordance with the contract, the evidence showed.  Armet was paid over $2 million over the course of the scheme, the evidence showed.

The case was investigated by the FBI and DCIS.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Caitlin Cottingham of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Carlton of the Western District of Virginia.

Mississippi Real Estate Investors Plead Guilty to Conspiracy to Rig Bids at Public Foreclosure Auctions

Thursday, February 15, 2018

First Convictions in Mississippi Real Estate Foreclosure Auctions Investigation

Two real estate investors pleaded guilty today for their roles in a conspiracy to rig bids at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Mississippi, the Department of Justice announced.

“Shannon and Jason Boykin are the first two defendants to plead guilty in the Antitrust Division’s active, ongoing investigation into anticompetitive behavior at real estate foreclosure auctions in Mississippi,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “In the past few years, the Division has secured convictions of over 100 individuals around the country.  The Division remains committed to rooting out anticompetitive conduct at foreclosure auctions.”

Felony charges against Shannon Boykin and Jason Boykin were filed on February 1, 2018, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.  According to court documents, from at least as early May 22, 2012, through at least as late as March 22, 2017, Jason and Shannon Boykin conspired with others to rig bids, designating a winning bidder to obtain selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions in the Southern District of Mississippi. Co-conspirators made and received payoffs in exchange for their agreement not to bid.

“Rigging, cheating and swindling foreclosure auctions undermines confidence in the marketplace, defrauds companies, and hurts owners of foreclosed homes.  These criminal actions harm us all, and I commend the Antitrust Division and the FBI for their investigation and prosecution of these crimes throughout the country. This office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to combat illegal, anticompetitive behavior and protect victims,” said United States Attorney D. Michael Hurst, Jr. for the Southern District of Mississippi.

“The criminal actions of the defendants in this case provide a clear example of why enforcement of the Sherman Act remains necessary in maintaining a competitive field of commerce,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Freeze of the FBI in Mississippi. “The FBI will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division in identifying such financial schemes that attempt to take advantage of the competitive process, including schemes targeting foreclosure auctions.”

The Department said that the primary purpose of the conspiracy was to suppress and restrain competition in order to obtain selected real estate offered at public foreclosure auctions at non-competitive prices.  When real estate properties are sold at these auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with remaining proceeds, if any, paid to the homeowner.  According to court documents, these conspirators paid and received money in connection with their agreement to suppress competition, which artificially lowered the price paid at auction for such homes.

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine for a Sherman Act charge may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime if either amount is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal II Section and the FBI’s Gulfport Resident Agency, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact Antitrust Division prosecutors in the Washington Criminal II Section at 202-598-4000, or visit https://www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations.

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.

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

Friday, February 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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