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.

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.

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

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former Employee of U.S. Government Contractor in Afghanistan Pleads Guilty to Accepting Kickbacks From Subcontractor

Monday, March 5, 2018

A former employee of a U.S. government contractor in Afghanistan pleaded guilty today to accepting illegal kickbacks from an Afghan subcontractor in return for his assistance in obtaining subcontracts on U.S. government contracts.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak of the Northern District of Georgia; Special Agent in Charge John Khin of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s (DCIS) Southeast Field Office, Atlanta Resident Agency; Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko; Director Frank Robey of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s (CID) Major Procurement Fraud Unit (MPFU); Special Agent in Charge David J. LeValley of the FBI Atlanta Resident Agency and Special Agent in Charge Wendell W. Palmer of Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI), made the announcement.

Christopher McCray, 55, of Jonesboro, Georgia and Chattanooga, Tennessee, pleaded guilty to one count of accepting illegal kickbacks before U.S. District Judge Mark H. Cohen of the Northern District of Georgia.  He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Cohen on June 14 at 10:00 a.m. EST.  McCray was charged in an indictment filed on April 25, 2017 in the Northern District of Georgia with one count of conspiracy to accept kickbacks and 14 counts of accepting illegal kickbacks.

As part of his plea, McCray admitted that he was employed as the country manager for a subcontractor of an American company that was moving cargo for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service from Bagram Airfield to military bases through Afghanistan.  When the prime contractor needed McCray’s employer to take a much bigger role in the distribution, McCray had the chance to influence the choice of the necessary Afghan trucking company as a subcontractor to his employer.  McCray’s employer entered into a subcontract with an Afghan company but before the choice of the subcontractor was made, the Afghan trucking company secretly agreed to kick back to McCray 15 percent of the revenues it would receive on the contract, he admitted.  McCray thereafter remained as the only representative of his employer in Afghanistan for the duration of the subcontract and was responsible for checking the accuracy of the invoices submitted to McCray’s employer and the quality of the Afghan company’s work, all while secretly receiving the kickbacks, he admitted.

McCray received the secret payments from December 2012 to May 2014.  He and the Afghan trucking company also maintained a separate set of invoices, which showed the amounts charged to McCray’s employer and the amounts kept by the Afghan company and the amounts sent to McCray.  McCray was first paid in cash, then by wires sent to his bank in Atlanta and then by Western Union payments sent to his mother, who would deposit the funds, mostly in cash, into McCray’s bank accounts, he admitted.

DCIS, SIGAR, Army CID-MPFU, the FBI and Air Force OSI investigated this matter.  Trial Attorney James Gelber of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Pearce of the Northern District of Georgia are prosecuting the case.

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.

Nurse Practitioner and Physician Indicted in Compounding Pharmacy Fraud Schemes

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Mississippi-based nurse practitioner was charged in an indictment unsealed today for her role in a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud TRICARE, the health care benefit program serving U.S. military, veterans and their respective family members.  A Mississippi-based physician was charged in a separate indictment filed last week for his role in a similar scheme.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst of the Southern District of Mississippi, Special Agent in Charge Christopher Freeze of the FBI’s Jackson, Mississippi Field Division and Special Agent in Charge Jerome R. McDuffie of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) New Orleans Field Office made the announcement.

Susan Perry N.P., 58, of Grand Bay, Alabama, and Albert Diaz M.D., 78, of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, were charged in separate indictments returned on Oct. 18, in the Southern District of Mississippi, in Hattiesburg.  Perry’s indictment was unsealed upon her arrest and initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Gargiulo of the Southern District of Mississippi.  Perry is scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 25, at 10:30 a.m., and Diaz is scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 1, at 10:30 a.m., both before Judge Gargiulo.

Perry was charged in a 13-count indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to distribute and dispense a controlled substance, one count of distributing and dispensing of a controlled substance, one count of conspiracy to solicit and receive healthcare kickbacks, four counts of soliciting and receiving healthcare kickbacks and one count of making false statements.  Diaz was charged in a 16-count indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to distribute and dispense a controlled substance, four counts of distributing and dispensing a controlled substance, one count of conspiracy to falsify records in a federal investigation and five counts of falsification of records in a federal investigation.

The indictments allege that both Perry and Diaz participated in schemes to defraud TRICARE by prescribing medically unnecessary compounded medications, some of which included Ketamine, a controlled substance, to individuals they had not examined, for the purpose of having a Hattiesburg-based compounding pharmacy dispense these medically unnecessary compounded medications and to seek reimbursement from TRICARE.  According to the indictments, between February 2013 and October 2016, TRICARE reimbursed the compounding pharmacy more than $3.3 million for compounded medications prescribed by Perry, and between October 2014 and December 2015, TRICARE reimbursed the compounding pharmacy more than $2.3 million for compounded medications prescribed by Diaz.  Additionally, Perry is alleged to have received more than $50,000 in kickback payments from a marketer for the compounding pharmacy in return for prescribing the compounded medications, as well as having made false statements to the FBI.   Diaz is alleged to have submitted falsified patient records in response to an audit conducted by TRICARE to make it appear as though he had examined patients before prescribing the compounding medications.

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

The FBI, IRS-CI, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and other government agencies investigated the case.  Trial Attorneys Dustin M. Davis, Katherine Payerle and Jared Hasten of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Helen Wall of the Southern District of Mississippi 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.