Doctor Pleads Guilty to Health Care Fraud Conspiracy for Role in $19 Million Detroit Area Medicare Fraud Scheme

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A physician pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit health care fraud for his role in an approximately $19 million Medicare fraud scheme involving three Detroit area providers.

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.

Abdul Haq, 72, of Ypsilanti, Michigan, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud before U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood of the Eastern District of Michigan.  Sentencing has been scheduled for May 29, 2018 before Judge Hood.

As part of his guilty plea, Haq admitted that he conspired with the owner of the Tri-County Network, Mashiyat Rashid, and his co-defendants and others to prescribe medically unnecessary controlled substances, including Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Opana, to Medicare beneficiaries, many of whom were addicted to narcotics.  He further admitted that in furtherance of the conspiracy, Rashid and others also directed physicians, including Haq and others, to require Medicare beneficiaries to undergo medically unnecessary facet joint injections if the beneficiary wished to obtain prescriptions for controlled substances.

In furtherance of the conspiracy, Haq and others referred Medicare beneficiaries to specific third party home health agencies, laboratories and diagnostic providers even though those referrals were medically unnecessary, he admitted.  Haq also served as the straw owner of various pain clinics owned and/or controlled by Rashid, and submitted false and fraudulent enrollment materials to Medicare that failed to disclose the ownership interest of Rashid, as it was illegal for Rashid – a non-physician – to own medical clinics under Michigan law.  In total, Haq admitted that he submitted or caused the submission of approximately $19,322,846.60 in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare.

Haq was charged along with Mashiyat Rashid, 37, of West Bloomfield, Michigan; Yasser Mozeb, 35, of Madison Heights, Michigan; Spilios Pappas, 61, of Monclova, Ohio; Joseph Betro, 57, of Novi, Michigan; Tariq Omar, 61, of West Bloomfield, Michigan; and Mohammed Zahoor, 51 of Novi, Michigan, in an indictment unsealed on July 6.  Rashid, Mozeb, Pappas, Betro, Omar and Zahoor are awaiting trial.

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.

This case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and IRS-CI.  Trial Attorney Jacob Foster 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.

Michigan Real Estate Businessman Sentenced to Prison for Obstructing the Internal Revenue Laws and Bank Fraud

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Michigan business owner was sentenced to serve a year and a day in prison today for obstructing and impeding the internal revenue laws and committing bank fraud, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

According to documents filed with the court, Richard Pierce filed fraudulent 2004 through 2013 individual income tax returns. Those returns failed to report more than $9 million in gross business receipts that several of his real estate businesses earned, including Phoenix Real Estate Company, Phoenix Preferred Properties LLC, Detroit Matrix, First Metro Properties LLC, First Metro Real Estate Services LLC, Phoenix Office Plaza-II LLC, Rosedale/Grandmont Properties LLC, and RFP Ventures LLC. As a result of those fraudulent filings, Pierce caused a tax loss of more than $400,000.

In 2007, Pierce also committed bank fraud by submitting a fraudulent loan application to a mortgage lender on which he failed to disclose that the buyer of a residential property was receiving a kickback from the seller.

In addition to the term of prison imposed, Pierce was ordered to serve two years of supervised release and to pay restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the amount of which will be determined at a later date. Pierce pleaded guilty in February 2015.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg commended special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation, who conducted the investigation, and Trial Attorneys Mark McDonald and Christopher O’Donnell of the Tax Division, who prosecuted the case. Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan for their substantial assistance.

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

National Health Care Fraud Takedown Results in Charges Against Over 412 Individuals Responsible for $1.3 Billion in Fraud Losses

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Largest Health Care Fraud Enforcement Action in Department of Justice History

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, M.D., announced today the largest ever health care fraud enforcement action by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, involving 412 charged defendants across 41 federal districts, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving approximately $1.3 billion in false billings. Of those charged, over 120 defendants, including doctors, were charged for their roles in prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics. Thirty state Medicaid Fraud Control Units also participated in today’s arrests. In addition, HHS has initiated suspension actions against 295 providers, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Price were joined in the announcement by Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting Director Andrew McCabe of the FBI, Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Inspector General Daniel Levinson of the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), Chief Don Fort of IRS Criminal Investigation, Administrator Seema Verma of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and Deputy Director Kelly P. Mayo of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS).

Today’s enforcement actions were led and coordinated by the Criminal Division, Fraud Section’s Health Care Fraud Unit in conjunction with its Medicare Fraud Strike Force (MFSF) partners, a partnership between the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney’s Offices, the FBI and HHS-OIG.  In addition, the operation includes the participation of the DEA, DCIS, and State Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

The charges announced today aggressively target schemes billing Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE (a health insurance program for members and veterans of the armed forces and their families) for medically unnecessary prescription drugs and compounded medications that often were never even purchased and/or distributed to beneficiaries. The charges also involve individuals contributing to the opioid epidemic, with a particular focus on medical professionals involved in the unlawful distribution of opioids and other prescription narcotics, a particular focus for the Department. According to the CDC, approximately 91 Americans die every day of an opioid related overdose.

“Too many trusted medical professionals like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients,” said Attorney General Sessions. “Amazingly, some have made their practices into multimillion dollar criminal enterprises. They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed. Their actions not only enrich themselves often at the expense of taxpayers but also feed addictions and cause addictions to start. The consequences are real: emergency rooms, jail cells, futures lost, and graveyards.  While today is a historic day, the Department’s work is not finished. In fact, it is just beginning. We will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict, and incarcerate fraudsters and drug dealers wherever they are.”

“Healthcare fraud is not only a criminal act that costs billions of taxpayer dollars – it is an affront to all Americans who rely on our national healthcare programs for access to critical healthcare services and a violation of trust,” said Secretary Price. “The United States is home to the world’s best medical professionals, but their ability to provide affordable, high-quality care to their patients is jeopardized every time a criminal commits healthcare fraud. That is why this Administration is committed to bringing these criminals to justice, as President Trump demonstrated in his 2017 budget request calling for a new $70 million investment in the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program. The historic results of this year’s national takedown represent significant progress toward protecting the integrity and sustainability of Medicare and Medicaid, which we will continue to build upon in the years to come.”

According to court documents, the defendants allegedly participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided. In many cases, patient recruiters, beneficiaries and other co-conspirators were allegedly paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers, so that the providers could then submit fraudulent bills to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary or never performed. The number of medical professionals charged is particularly significant, because virtually every health care fraud scheme requires a corrupt medical professional to be involved in order for Medicare or Medicaid to pay the fraudulent claims.  Aggressively pursuing corrupt medical professionals not only has a deterrent effect on other medical professionals, but also ensures that their licenses can no longer be used to bilk the system.

“This week, thanks to the work of dedicated investigators and analysts, we arrested once-trusted doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals who were corrupted by greed,” said Acting Director McCabe. “The FBI is committed to working with our partners on the front lines of the fight against heath care fraud to stop those who steal from the government and deceive the American public.”

“Health care fraud is a reprehensible crime.  It not only represents a theft from taxpayers who fund these vital programs, but impacts the millions of Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid,” said Inspector General Levinson. “In the worst fraud cases, greed overpowers care, putting patients’ health at risk. OIG will continue to play a vital leadership role in the Medicare Fraud Strike Force to track down those who abuse important federal health care programs.”

“Our enforcement actions underscore the commitment of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and our partners to vigorously investigate fraud perpetrated against the DoD’s TRICARE Program. We will continue to relentlessly investigate health care fraud, ensure the taxpayers’ health care dollars are properly spent, and endeavor to guarantee our service members, military retirees, and their dependents receive the high standard of care they deserve,” advised Deputy Director Mayo.

“Last year, an estimated 59,000 Americans died from a drug overdose, many linked to the misuse of prescription drugs. This is, quite simply, an epidemic,” said Acting Administrator Rosenberg. “There is a great responsibility that goes along with handling controlled prescription drugs, and DEA and its partners remain absolutely committed to fighting the opioid epidemic using all the tools at our disposal.”

“Every defendant in today’s announcement shares one common trait – greed,” said Chief Fort. “The desire for money and material items drove these individuals to perpetrate crimes against our healthcare system and prey upon many of the vulnerable in our society.  Thanks to the financial expertise and diligence of IRS-CI special agents, who worked side-by-side with other federal, state and local law enforcement officers to uncover these schemes, these criminals are off the street and will now face the consequences of their actions.”

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 3500 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $12.5 billion.

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For the Strike Force locations, in the Southern District of Florida, a total of 77 defendants were charged with offenses relating to their participation in various fraud schemes involving over $141 million in false billings for services including home health care, mental health services and pharmacy fraud.  In one case, the owner and operator of a purported addiction treatment center and home for recovering addicts and one other individual were charged in a scheme involving the submission of over $58 million in fraudulent medical insurance claims for purported drug treatment services. The allegations include actively recruiting addicted patients to move to South Florida so that the co-conspirators could bill insurance companies for fraudulent treatment and testing, in return for which, the co-conspirators offered kickbacks to patients in the form of gift cards, free airline travel, trips to casinos and strip clubs, and drugs.

In the Eastern District of Michigan, 32 defendants face charges for their alleged roles in fraud, kickback, money laundering and drug diversion schemes involving approximately $218 million in false claims for services that were medically unnecessary or never rendered. In one case, nine defendants, including six physicians, were charged with prescribing medically unnecessary controlled substances, some of which were sold on the street, and billing Medicare for $164 million in facet joint injections, drug testing, and other procedures that were medically unnecessary and/or not provided.

In the Southern District of Texas, 26 individuals were charged in cases involving over $66 million in alleged fraud. Among these defendants are a physician and a clinic owner who were indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances and three substantive counts of distribution of controlled substances in connection with a purported pain management clinic that is alleged to have been the highest prescribing hydrocodone clinic in Houston, where approximately 60-70 people were seen daily, and were issued medically unnecessary prescriptions for hydrocodone in exchange for approximately $300 cash per visit.

In the Central District of California, 17 defendants were charged for their roles in schemes to defraud Medicare out of approximately $147 million. Two of these defendants were indicted for their alleged involvement in a $41.5 million scheme to defraud Medicare and a private insurer. This was purportedly done by submitting fraudulent claims, and receiving payments for, prescription drugs that were not filled by the pharmacy nor given to patients.

In the Northern District of Illinois, 15 individuals were charged in cases related to six different schemes concerning home health care services and physical therapy fraud, kickbacks, and mail and wire fraud.  These schemes involved allegedly over $12.7 million in fraudulent billing. One case allegedly involved $7 million in fraudulent billing to Medicare for home health services that were not necessary nor rendered.

In the Middle District of Florida, 10 individuals were charged with participating in a variety of schemes involving almost $14 million in fraudulent billing.  In one case, three defendants were charged in a $4 million scheme to defraud the TRICARE program.  In that case, it is alleged that a defendant falsely represented himself to be a retired Lieutenant Commander of the United States Navy Submarine Service. It is alleged that he did so in order to gain the trust and personal identifying information from TRICARE beneficiaries, many of whom were members and veterans of the armed forces, for use in the scheme.

In the Eastern District of New York, ten individuals were charged with participating in a variety of schemes including kickbacks, services not rendered, and money laundering involving over $151 million in fraudulent billings to Medicare and Medicaid. Approximately $100 million of those fraudulent billings were allegedly part of a scheme in which five health care professionals paid illegal kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals to their own clinics.

In the Southern Louisiana Strike Force, operating in the Middle and Eastern Districts of Louisiana as well as the Southern District of Mississippi, seven defendants were charged in connection with health care fraud, wire fraud, and kickback schemes involving more than $207 million in fraudulent billing. One case involved a pharmacist who was charged with submitting and causing the submission of $192 million in false and fraudulent claims to TRICARE and other health care benefit programs for dispensing compounded medications that were not medically necessary and often based on prescriptions induced by illegal kickback payments.

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In addition to the Strike Force locations, today’s enforcement actions include cases and investigations brought by an additional 31 U.S. Attorney’s Offices, including the execution of search warrants in investigations conducted by the Eastern District of California and the Northern District of Ohio.

In the Northern and Southern Districts of Alabama, three defendants were charged for their roles in two health care fraud schemes involving pharmacy fraud and drug diversion.

In the Eastern District of Arkansas, 24 defendants were charged for their roles in three drug diversion schemes that were all investigated by the DEA.

In the Northern and Southern Districts of California, four defendants, including a physician, were charged for their roles in a drug diversion scheme and a health care fraud scheme involving kickbacks.

In the District of Connecticut, three defendants were charged in two health care fraud schemes, including a scheme involving two physicians who fraudulently billed Medicaid for services that were not rendered and for the provision of oxycodone with knowledge that the prescriptions were not medically necessary.

In the Northern and Southern Districts of Georgia, three defendants were charged in two health care fraud schemes involving nearly $1.5 million in fraudulent billing.

In the Southern District of Illinois, five defendants were charged in five separate schemes to defraud the Medicaid program.

In the Northern and Southern Districts of Indiana, at least five defendants were charged in various health care fraud schemes related to the unlawful distribution and dispensing of controlled substances, kickbacks, and services not rendered.

In the Southern District of Iowa, five defendants were charged in two schemes involving the distribution of opioids.

In the Western District of Kentucky, 11 defendants were charged with defrauding the Medicaid program.  In one case, four defendants, including three medical professionals, were charged with distributing controlled substances and fraudulently billing the Medicaid program.

In the District of Maine, an office manager was charged with embezzling funds from a medical office.

In the Eastern and Western Districts of Missouri, 16 defendants were charged in schemes involving over $16 million in claims, including 10 defendants charged as part of a scheme involving fraudulent lab testing.

In the District of Nebraska, a dentist was charged with defrauding the Medicaid program.

In the District of Nevada, two defendants, including a physician, were charged in a scheme involving false hospice claims.

In the Northern, Southern, and Western Districts of New York, five defendants, including two physicians and two pharmacists, were charged in schemes involving drug diversion and pharmacy fraud.

In the Southern District of Ohio, five defendants, including four physicians, were charged in connection with schemes involving $12 million in claims to the Medicaid program.

In the District of Puerto Rico, 13 defendants, including three physicians and two pharmacists, were charged in four schemes involving drug diversion, Medicaid fraud, and the theft of funds from a health care program.

In the Eastern District of Tennessee, three defendants were charged in a scheme involving fraudulent billings and the distribution of opioids.

In the Eastern, Northern, and Western Districts of Texas, nine defendants were charged in schemes involving over $42 million in fraudulent billing, including a scheme involving false claims for compounded medications.

In the District of Utah, a nurse practitioner was charged in connection with fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance, tampering with a consumer product, and infecting over seven individuals with Hepatitis C.

In the Eastern District of Virginia, a defendant was charged in connection with a scheme involving identify theft and fraudulent billings to the Medicaid program.

In addition, in the states of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Washington, 96 defendants have been charged in criminal and civil actions with defrauding the Medicaid program out of over $31 million. These cases were investigated by each state’s respective Medicaid Fraud Control Units. In addition, the Medicaid Fraud Control Units of the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Utah participated in the investigation of many of the federal cases discussed above.

The cases announced today are being prosecuted and investigated by U.S. Attorney’s Offices nationwide, along with Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams from the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices of the Southern District of Florida, Eastern District of Michigan, Eastern District of New York, Southern District of Texas, Central District of California, Eastern District of Louisiana, Northern District of Texas, Northern District of Illinois and the Middle District of Florida; and agents from the FBI, HHS-OIG, Drug Enforcement Administration, DCIS and state Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

A complaint, information, or indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Additional documents related to this announcement will shortly be available here: https://www.justice.gov/opa/documents-and-resources-july-13-2017.

This operation also highlights the great work being done by the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.  In the past fiscal year, the Department of Justice, including the Civil Division, has collectively won or negotiated over $2.5 billion in judgements and settlements related to matters alleging health care fraud.

Detroit Area Medical Biller Sentenced to 50 Months in Prison for Her Role in a $7.3 Million Dollar Healthcare Fraud Scheme

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Detroit-area medical biller was sentenced today to 50 months in prison for  her role in a $7.3 million Medicare and Medicaid fraud scheme involving medical services that were billed to Medicare and Medicaid but not rendered as billed.

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, 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.

Dawn Bentley, 56, of Oakland County, Michigan, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sean F. Cox of the Eastern District of Michigan, who also ordered Bentley to pay $3,253,107 in restitution jointly and severally with her co-defendants. After a one-week jury trial in January 2017, Bentley was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud, as well as one count of mail fraud. Bentley was sentenced to 50 months in prison on each of the two counts, to run concurrently, followed by one year of supervised release.

According to the evidence presented at trial, from June 2014 through June 2015, Bentley knowingly submitted fraudulent bills on behalf of a co-conspirator physician for services she knew could not have been rendered, and for services she knew had not been rendered as billed. In exchange, Bentley was paid 6% of the total billings paid to the physician from Medicare, the evidence showed. Bentley’s largest client was Waseem Alam, who pleaded guilty to a $33 million Medicare fraud scheme in March 2016. Bentley billed $1.9 million of this fraud from June 2014 to June 2015, and was paid 6% of Alam’s receipts for the fraudulent billings, the evidence showed. Bentley’s company received over $100,000 from Alam’s practices between June 2014 and June 2015, the evidence showed.

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 Tom Tynan and Jessica Collins 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 3,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $11 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.

Former Audi Manager Charged in Connection With Conspiracy to Cheat U.S. Emissions Tests

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A former Audi manager has been charged via criminal complaint for his role in the long-running conspiracy to defraud U.S. regulators and customers by implementing software specifically designed to cheat U.S. emissions tests in thousands of Audi “clean diesel” vehicles.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel L. Lemisch of the Eastern District of Michigan made the announcement.

Giovanni Pamio, 60, an Italian citizen, is charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., wire fraud, and violation of the Clean Air Act. Pamio was formerly head of Thermodynamics within Audi’s Diesel Engine Development Department in Neckarsulm, Germany. According to the complaint, from in or about 2006 until in or about November 2015, Pamio led a team of engineers responsible for designing emissions control systems to meet emissions standards, including for nitrogen oxides (“NOx”), for diesel vehicles in the U.S.

According to the complaint, after Pamio and coconspirators realized that it was impossible to calibrate a diesel engine that would meet NOx emissions standards within the design constraints imposed by other departments at the company, Pamio directed Audi employees to design and implement software functions to cheat the standard U.S. emissions tests. Pamio and coconspirators deliberately failed to disclose the software functions, and they knowingly misrepresented that the vehicles complied with U.S. NOx emissions standards, the complaint alleges.

Audi’s parent company, Volkswagen AG (VW), previously pleaded guilty to three felony counts connected to cheating U.S. emissions standards. The company was ordered to pay a $2.8 billion criminal fine at its sentencing on April 21, 2017.

A complaint 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 and EPA-CID investigated the case. This case is being prosecuted by Securities and Financial Fraud Chief Benjamin D. Singer and Trial Attorneys David Fuhr and Christopher Fenton of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, Senior Trial Attorney Jennifer Blackwell and Trial Attorney Joel La Bissonniere of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crime Section, and White Collar Crime Unit Chief John K. Neal and Assistant United States Attorney Timothy J. Wyse of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also assisted in the case.

Kiekert AG to Plead Guilty to Bid Rigging Involving Auto Parts

Kiekert AG, an automotive parts manufacturer based in Heiligenhaus, Germany, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $6.1 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to rig bids of side-door latches and latch minimodules installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.

According to a one-count felony charge filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Kiekert participated in a conspiracy to eliminate competition by agreeing to allocate sales, rig bids and fix prices for side-door latches and latch minimodules sold to Ford Motor Company and its subsidiaries in the United States and elsewhere between September 2008 and May 2013.  In addition to Kiekert’s agreement to pay a $6.1 million criminal fine, the manufacturer has agreed to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation.  The plea agreement is subject to court approval.

“The Antitrust Division has uncovered conspiracies involving more than 50 automotive parts,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  “Automobile manufacturers, and the American consumers who buy their cars, are entitled to prices set by competition, not secret cartels.”

“Americans expect corporations in the United States and overseas to conduct their business honestly.  To do anything less, compromises consumer trust,” said Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios of FBI’s Detroit Division.  “Today’s plea agreement of Kiekert AG, demonstrates the resolve of the FBI and the Department of Justice to protect American consumers from price fixing and bid rigging schemes that ultimately harm the U.S. economy.”

Side-door latches secure car doors to the body.  Latch minimodules include the side-door latch and all related mechanical operating components, including the electronic lock function.

According to the charges, Kiekert officials participated in meetings and communications with representatives of another major side-door latch producer, during which they agreed to allocate sales, rig bids and fix prices submitted to Ford.  To effectuate those agreements, the conspirators exchanged information on bids and price quotations for submission to Ford.

Today’s charge is the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI.  Including Kiekert, 48 companies and 65 executives have been charged in the division’s ongoing investigation and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.9 billion in criminal fines.

These charges were brought by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the FBI’s Detroit Field Office with the assistance of the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit.

Kiekert AG Information

Detroit-Area Neurosurgeon Admits Causing Serious Bodily Injury to Patients in $11 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

A Detroit-area neurosurgeon pleaded guilty today in two separate criminal cases that resulted in serious bodily injury to his patients and more than $11 million in Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, Assistant Director in Charge David L. Bowdich of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Special Agent in Charge Glenn R. Ferry of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Los Angeles Region and Special Agent in Charge Marlon Miller of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations’ (ICE-HSI) Detroit Field Office made the announcement.

“Disregarding his Hippocratic oath to do no harm, Dr. Sabit enriched himself by performing unnecessary, invasive spinal surgeries and implanting costly and unnecessary medical devices, all at the expense of his patients’ health and welfare,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Doctors who sell their medical judgment and ethics for personal profit endanger the lives and safety of vulnerable patients who count on their advice to make life-altering decisions.  The Criminal Division of the Department of Justice will continue to prioritize the prosecution of doctors whose criminal behavior puts patients at risk.”

“This case of health care fraud is particularly egregious because Dr. Sabit caused serious bodily injury to his patients by acting out of his own greed instead of the best interests of his patients,” said U.S. Attorney McQuade.  “Not only did he steal $11 million in insurance proceeds, but he also betrayed his trust to patients by lying to them about the procedures that were medically necessary and that were actually performed.”

Aria O. Sabit, M.D., 39, of Birmingham, Michigan, entered his guilty pleas in both criminal cases at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman of the Eastern District of Michigan.  Sabit pleaded guilty to four counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, resulting in losses to Medicare, Medicaid and various private insurance companies.  A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 15, 2015.

According to court documents, Sabit was a licensed neurosurgeon who owned and operated the Michigan Brain and Spine Physicians Group with various locations in the Eastern District of Michigan, including Southfield, Michigan, Clinton Township, Michigan, and Dearborn, Michigan, which opened in approximately April 2011.

During his guilty plea today, Sabit admitted that he derived significant profits by convincing patients to undergo spinal fusion surgeries with instrumentation (meaning specific medical devices designed to stabilize and strengthen the spine), which he never rendered, and subsequently billing public and private healthcare benefit programs for those fraudulent services.

Sabit further admitted he operated on patients and dictated in his operative reports—that he knew would later be used to support his fraudulent insurance claims—that he had performed spinal fusion with instrumentation, which he never performed.  This invasive surgery caused serious bodily injury to the patients.  Sabit admitted that his operative reports and treatment records contained false statements about the procedures performed, and the instrumentation used in the procedures.  Sabit also admitted that, on occasion, he would implant cortical bone dowels and falsely dictate in his operative reports that he had implanted instrumentation.  Sabit, then fraudulently billed public and private health care programs for instrumentation, when in fact the implants were tissue.  Sabit admitted he failed to render services in relation to lumbar and thoracic fusion surgeries, including in certain instances, billing for implants that were not provided.

Sabit also admitted that, prior to moving to Michigan, he was a resident of Ventura, California, and a licensed neurosurgeon in California.  He admitted that in approximately February 2010, he became involved with Apex Medical Technologies LLC (Apex) while he was on the staff of a California hospital.

Apex was owned by another neurosurgeon and three non-physicians who operated Apex as a physician-owned distributorship and paid neurosurgeons lucrative illegal kickbacks tied directly to the volume and complexity of the surgeries that the surgeons performed, and the number of Apex spinal implant devices the surgeons used in their spine surgeries.

In exchange for the opportunity to invest in Apex and share in its profits, Sabit admitted that he agreed to convince his hospital to buy spinal implant devices from Apex and use a sufficient number of Apex spinal implant devices in his spine surgeries.  Sabit further admitted that he and Apex’s co-owners used Apex to operate an illegal kickback scheme.  In doing so, they concealed Sabit’s involvement in Apex from outsiders.  Sabit then required the hospitals and surgical centers where he and his fellow neurosurgeon performed surgeries to purchase spinal implant devices from Apex.

Sabit admitted that his involvement in Apex, and the financial incentives provided to him by Apex and his co-conspirators, caused him to compromise his medical judgment and cause serious bodily injury to his patients by performing medically unnecessary spine surgeries on some of the patients in whom he implanted Apex spinal implant devices.  Sabit admitted that on a few occasions, the money he made from using Apex spinal implant devices motivated him either to refer patients in for spine surgery who did not medically need surgery or refer his patients for more complex surgeries, such as multi-level spine fusions, that they did not need.

Sabit also admitted that the financial incentives provided to him by Apex and his co-conspirators caused him to “over instrument” his patients (meaning Sabit used more spinal implant devices than were medically necessary to treat his patients) in order to generate more sales revenue for Apex, which resulted in serious bodily injury to his patients.

The Michigan case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and ICE.  The California case—which was subsequently transferred to the Eastern District of Michigan—was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG.  The Michigan case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Regina R. McCullough and Philip A. Ross of the Eastern District of Michigan.  The California case 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 of the Eastern District of Michigan, and is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Jonathan T. Baum and Trial Attorneys Dustin Davis and Blanca Quintero of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Sabit is also a defendant in two civil False Claims Act cases brought by the Department of Justice in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,100 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6.5 billion.  In addition, the HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Unlicensed Detroit Doctor Convicted in $4.69 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

A federal jury in Detroit today convicted an unlicensed physician for his participation in a nearly $4.7 million Medicare fraud scheme, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office.

Wilfred Griffith, 64, of Detroit, a graduate of a foreign medical school with no medical license, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to solicit and receive health care kickbacks.  A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 8, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Sean F. Cox of the Eastern District of Michigan.

According to evidence presented at trial, Griffith worked as an unlicensed physician at Phoenix Visiting Physicians in 2010 and 2011.  At that clinic, Griffith treated Medicare beneficiaries and used prescription pads pre-signed by Dr. Dwight Smith to prescribe medicine.

The evidence demonstrated that Griffith also referred Medicare beneficiaries to a Detroit-area home health company called Cherish Home Health Services Inc. (Cherish) in exchange for kickbacks.  In ordering the home health services, Griffith used the names and signatures of Dr. Smith and two other Detroit-area physicians to certify that the beneficiaries were homebound and needed home health services, when they did not.

Evidence showed that based on the fraudulent referrals from Griffith and others, Cherish submitted false claims to Medicare for home health services that were never provided and were not medically necessary.  Medicare beneficiaries pre-signed supporting medical paperwork that was then completed and signed by others at Cherish to falsely show that care was provided.

Between November 2009 and December 2013, Medicare paid Cherish nearly $4.7 million, which included more than $680,000 for home health services purportedly rendered to beneficiaries referred by Griffith using the names of Dr. Smith and the two other physicians.

Two other individuals have pleaded guilty for their roles in this scheme.  Zia Hassan, 48, the owner of Cherish, pleaded guilty on Jan. 16, 2015, and Nathan Miller, 53, a patient recruiter who referred beneficiaries to Hassan in exchange for cash kickbacks, pleaded guilty on Aug. 4, 2014.  On May 7, 2012, Dr. Smith also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and on June 12, 2014, U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen of the Eastern District of Michigan sentenced Dr. Smith to three years in prison.

The case was investigated by HHS-OIG and 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 Eastern District of Michigan.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Katharine A. Wagner and Special Trial Attorney Katie R. Fink of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Hurford of the Eastern District of Michigan.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,100 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6.5 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.

Michigan Physician Pleads Guilty for Role in $19 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

A Detroit-area physician, who orchestrated the submission of fraudulent claims for physician home visits and directed fraudulent referrals for home health care by his employee physicians as part of a $19 million home health care fraud scheme, pleaded guilty today for his role in the conspiracy.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office 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.

Dr. Rajesh Doshi, 59, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, pleaded guilty before Senior U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow of the Eastern District of Michigan to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of health care fraud.  The sentencing hearing is set for March 3, 2015.

According to his plea agreement, Dr. Doshi admitted that between October 2005 and September 2012, he conspired with others to commit health care fraud by referring Medicare beneficiaries for home health care that was not medically necessary, and then submitting false and fraudulent claims for the purported care to Medicare for reimbursement.  Dr. Doshi admitted that he submitted these false claims through Home Physicians Services (HPS), a medical practice he owned in Southfield, Michigan.  Although Dr. Doshi owned HPS, he hid his ownership because of prior state court convictions.

Specifically, Dr. Doshi admitted that he paid kickbacks to recruiters to obtain Medicare beneficiaries for HPS and home health agencies owned by co-conspirators.  Dr. Doshi and his co-conspirators then falsified medical and billing records for purported physician home visits, sometimes adding diagnoses to make it appear that the beneficiaries qualified for and required home care when they did not, and other times, “upcoding” physician home visits to higher levels of complexity than actually performed.

Dr. Doshi also admitted that he solicited and received kickbacks from home health agency owners in exchange for the referral of beneficiaries to those agencies, regardless of whether the beneficiaries qualified for or needed home health care.  He then directed HPS physicians to falsify medical documentation and certify Medicare beneficiaries as homebound even though the HPS physicians had never met the beneficiaries or the beneficiaries were not actually homebound.

Between October 2005 and September 2012, Dr. Doshi and his co-conspirators caused Medicare to pay more than $19 million based on false claims.  Three other physicians and one physician assistant have already pleaded guilty for their involvement in the health care fraud conspiracy related to the scheme at HPS.

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 Eastern District of Michigan.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Niall M. O’Donnell of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 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.

Detroit-Area Man Arrested in Connection with Home Health Care Fraud Scheme

A Detroit-area resident was arrested today for his role in a $2.7 million home health care fraud scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office 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.

Javed Akhtar, 47, of Brownstown, Michigan, was arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint charging him with participating in a health care fraud scheme involving two home health agencies in Wayne, Michigan:  Life Choice Home Health Care LLC (Life Choice), which he owned, and Angle’s Touch Home Health Care LLC (Angle’s Touch).  Both Life Choice and Angle’s Touch purported to provide in-home health care services to Medicare beneficiaries.

According to the complaint, Akhtar served as a patient recruiter for Angle’s Touch and Life Choice, where he allegedly paid kickbacks to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for their Medicare beneficiary information and their signatures on false medical records.  The complaint alleges that Angle’s Touch and Life Choice then billed Medicare for services purportedly provided to those beneficiaries that were not actually provided, were not medically necessary, or in instances where the claims were illegally procured through the payment of kickbacks.

The charges contained in a complaint are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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 Eastern District of Michigan.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Niall M. O’Donnell of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 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.