Florida Home Health Care Company Agrees to Pay $1.1 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

Recovery Home Care Inc., Recovery Home Care Services Inc. (collectively Recovery Home Care) and National Home Care Holdings LLC have agreed to pay $1.1 million to resolve allegations that the Recovery Home Care entities violated the False Claims Act by improperly paying doctors for referrals of home health care services provided to Medicare patients, the Department of Justice announced today.  The Recovery Home Care entities provide home health care services to Medicare beneficiaries and were purchased by National Home Care Holdings LLC in 2012, after the conduct addressed by the settlement occurred.

“Health care providers that attempt to profit by providing illegal inducements will be held accountable,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “We will continue to advocate for the appropriate use of Medicare funds and the proper care of our senior citizens.”

From 2009 through 2012, Recovery Home Care, headquartered in West Palm Beach, Florida, allegedly paid dozens of physicians thousands of dollars per month to perform patient chart reviews.  According to the government’s lawsuit, the physicians were over-compensated for any actual work they performed and, in reality, payments to the physicians were used to induce them to refer their patients to Recovery Home Care, in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law.

“Inducements of this kind are designed to improperly influence a physician’s independent medical judgment,” said U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida.  “This lawsuit and today’s settlement attests to our office’s on-going commitment to safeguard federal health care program beneficiaries from the effects of such illegal conduct.”

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.  The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by federal health care programs, including Medicare.  The Stark Law forbids a home health care provider from billing Medicare for certain services referred by physicians who have a financial relationship with the entity.

The settlement partially resolves allegations made in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Tampa, Florida, by Gregory Simony, a former employee of Recovery Home Care.  The lawsuit was filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery.  The act also allows the government to intervene and take over the action, as it did in part in this case.  Simony will receive $198,000 of the recovered funds.  The government continues to litigate this case against Recovery Home Care’s previous owner, Mark Conklin.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $23.8 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $15.2 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and HHS-OIG.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Simony v. Recovery Home Care, et al., Case No. 8-12-cv-2495-T-36TBM (M.D. Fla.).  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

Owners of Orlando Health Care Clinic Charged with $3 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

Charges have been unsealed against husband and wife owners of an Orlando health care clinic for their roles in a fraud scheme that resulted in the submission of more than $3 million in allegedly fraudulent claims to Medicare.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida and Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Florida region made the announcement after the defendants were taken into custody last night and this morning.

A federal grand jury in the Middle District of Florida returned an indictment on Nov. 19, 2014, against Juan Carlos Delgado, 58, and Nereyda Infante, 48, both of Orlando, Florida, charging them with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, five counts of health care fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  According to the indictment, Delgado and Infante owned and operated Prestige Medical Services and Rehab Center, a health care clinic that purportedly provided medical services to Medicare Part B and Medicare Part C beneficiaries, and three other similarly named clinics that also purportedly provided medical services to Medicare Part C beneficiaries.

Between February 2012 and September 2014, the defendants allegedly submitted claims to Medicare that falsely represented that medical services were provided, medically necessary, and prescribed by a physician, when they were not.  The health care fraud counts specifically allege fraudulent claims involving Pentostatin prescriptions, an expensive chemotherapeutic medication, that were not medically necessary, not prescribed by a physician, and not provided.  The indictment also alleges that the defendants transferred proceeds obtained as the result of fraudulent claims and diverted them for their personal use.  According to the indictment, the defendants obtained more than $1.8 million in proceeds from the alleged fraud.

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

The case is being investigated by the HHS-OIG 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 Trial Attorney Andrew H. Warren 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.

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

Principal in $28.3 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison

A Florida owner and operator of multiple physical therapy rehabilitation facilities was sentenced in federal court in Tampa today to serve 11 years in prison for his role in organizing a $28.3 million Medicare fraud scheme involving physical and occupational therapy services.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office and Special Agent in Charge Paul Wysopal of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office made the announcement.

Luis Duluc, 54, of Tampa, pleaded guilty on Feb. 3, 2014, to conspiracy to commit health care fraud as well as making a false statement relating to health care matters.  In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew of the Middle District of Florida ordered Duluc to pay $14,424,856 in restitution.

According to Duluc’s admissions in connection with his guilty plea, he and his co-conspirators used various physical therapy clinics and other businesses throughout Florida to submit approximately $28,347,065 in fraudulent reimbursement claims to Medicare between 2005 and 2009.  Medicare paid approximately $14,424,865 on those claims.

Duluc was chairman and president of a Delaware holding company known as Ulysses Acquisitions Inc., which was used to purchase comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facilities and outpatient physical therapy providers, including West Coast Rehab Inc. in Fort Myers, Florida; Rehab Dynamics Inc. in Venice, Florida; Polk Rehabilitation Inc. in Lake Wales, Florida; and Renew Therapy Center of Port St. Lucie LLC in Port St. Lucie, Florida.  This gave Duluc and his co-conspirators control of those clinics’ Medicare provider numbers, which allowed them to bill Medicare for services.

Duluc admitted that he and his co-conspirators paid kickbacks to obtain, and stole, the personal identifying information of Medicare beneficiaries, and that he and his co-conspirators also obtained unique identifying information of physicians.  They then used this information to create and submit false claims to Medicare through the clinics owned by Ulysses Acquisitions.  These claims sought reimbursement for therapy services that were not legitimately prescribed and not actually provided.  Duluc admitted that he and his co-conspirators created and used false and forged patient records in an effort to conceal the fact that services had not actually been provided.

Duluc also admitted that he developed and marketed the “80/20 deal.”  In these deals, Duluc and his co-conspirators submitted false reimbursement claims to Medicare on behalf of Miami-based therapy clinics, such as Hallandale Rehabilitation Inc., Tropical Physical Therapy Corporation, American Wellness Centers Inc. and West Regional Center Inc.  Duluc and co-conspirators retained approximately 20 percent of the money Medicare paid on these claims and paid the other 80 percent to the co-conspirator clinic owners.

When Duluc and his co-conspirators were done using the clinics they acquired through Ulysses Acquisitions, they engaged in sham sales to nominee or straw owners, all of whom were recent immigrants to the United States with no background or experience in the health care industry.  Duluc admitted that he did this in an effort to disassociate from the fraudulent operations of the rehabilitation facilities.

This case is being 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 U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.  This case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Christopher J. Hunter and Trial Attorney Andrew H. Warren of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Simon A. Gaugush of the Middle District of Florida.

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.

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

North Florida Shipyards to Pay $1 Million to Resolve False Claims Allegations

North Florida Shipyards and its president, Matt Self, will pay the United States $1 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by creating a front company, Ind-Mar Services Inc., in order to be awarded Coast Guard contracts that were designated for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs), the Justice Department announced today.  North Florida Shipyards has facilities in Jacksonville, Florida.

“Those who expect to do business with the government must do so fairly and honestly,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “We will not tolerate contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our veterans and taxpayers.”

To qualify as a SDVOSB on Coast Guard ship repair contracts, a company must be operated and managed by service disabled veterans and must perform at least 51 percent of the labor.  The government alleged that North Florida created Ind-Mar merely as a contracting vehicle and that North Florida performed all the work and received all the profits.  The government further alleged that if the Coast Guard and the Small Business Administration (SBA) had known that Ind-Mar was nothing but a front company, the Coast Guard would not have awarded it contracts to repair five ships.

In December 2013, the SBA suspended North Florida, Matt Self, Ind-Mar and three others from all government contracting.  In April 2014, North Florida and Matt Self entered into an administrative agreement with the SBA in which they admitted to having created and operated Ind-Mar in violation of its Coast Guard contracts and SBA statutes and regulations.

“Special programs to assist service disabled veterans are an important part of the SBA’s business development initiative,” said U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III for the Middle District of Florida.  “False claims such as this undermine the integrity of this vital program and, where found, will be vigorously pursued by our Office.”

“This settlement sends a strong message to those driven by greed to fraudulently obtain access to contracting opportunities set-aside for deserving small businesses owned and operated by service disabled veterans,” said Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafson for the SBA.  “We are committed to helping ensure that only eligible service disabled veteran owned small businesses benefit from that SBA program.”

The settlement resolves allegations originally filed in a lawsuit by Robert Hallstein and Earle Yerger under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery.  The act also allows the government to intervene and take over the action, as it did in this case.  Hallstein and Yerger will receive $180,000.

The investigation was a coordinated effort by the Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, the Department of Homeland Security’s-Office of Inspector General and the SBA Office of Inspector General.

The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, except to the extent that North Florida and Matt Self have admitted to the conduct in their agreement with the SBA.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Yerger, et al, v. North Florida Shipyards, et al., Case No. 3:11-cv-464J-32 MCR (M.D. Fla.).

Bioscan Principal Pleads Guilty in Multi-Million Dollar Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme

A Florida managing member of a shell company pleaded guilty today in federal court in Tampa, Florida, for his role in a multi-million dollar health care fraud and money laundering scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida, Acting Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office and Special Agent in Charge Paul Wysopal of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office made the announcement.

Gregory J. Sylvestri, 44, formerly of Lake Worth, Florida, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida to two charges related to money laundering of health care fraud proceeds.  His sentencing date will be set by the court at a later date.  In his plea agreement, Sylvestri agreed to the forfeiture of a $60,000 platinum and diamond engagement ring that he purchased with health care fraud proceeds.

According to his plea agreement, from June 2010 through April 2014, Sylvestri’s co-conspirators submitted over $12 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare through three purported health clinics, Cornerstone Health Specialists of Lakeland, Florida, Summit Health Specialists P.L. of Tampa, and Coastal Health Specialists LLC of Lakeland and Melbourne, Florida.  These fraudulent claims included claims resulting from illegal kickback arrangements and claims for radiology, audiology, neurology and cardiology services that were never rendered.  In fact, some of the services were purportedly provided to Medicare beneficiaries who had died before the supposed date of service.  Medicare paid over $2,500,000 in reimbursement on the fraudulent claims.

Sylvestri admitted that he and his co-conspirators used bank accounts for the clinics and shell companies, including his shell company, BONB LLC, aka BioScan, to conceal and disburse the fraud proceeds.

Four other defendants were indicted in this case on health care fraud and money laundering charges.  In addition to Sylvestri, one of the other defendants has pleaded guilty.  The remaining three defendants are scheduled for a jury trial in April 2015.  An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case is being 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 U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Christopher J. Hunter 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.

Shell Company Operator Pleads Guilty in Multi-Million Dollar Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme

A Florida managing member of a shell company pleaded guilty today in federal court in Tampa for his role in a multi-million dollar health care fraud and money laundering scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida, Acting Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office, and Special Agent in Charge Paul Wysopal of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office made the announcement.

Leonard Austin, 45, of Lake Worth, Florida, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida to conspiracy to commit money laundering of health care fraud proceeds.  His sentencing date will be set at a later date by the court.

According to his plea agreement and factual proffer, from June 2010 through April 2014, Austin’s co-conspirators submitted $12 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare through three purported health clinics, Cornerstone Health Specialists of Lakeland, Florida, Summit Health Specialists P.L. of Tampa, Florida, and Coastal Health Specialists LLC of Lakeland and Melbourne, Florida.  These fraudulent claims included claims resulting from illegal kickback arrangements and claims for radiology, audiology, neurology, and cardiology services that were never rendered.  In fact, some of the services were purportedly provided to Medicare beneficiaries who actually had died before the supposed date of service. Medicare paid over $2,500,000 on the fraudulent claims.

Austin admitted that he and his co-conspirators attempted to conceal the funds by transferring funds through bank accounts for the clinics and Austin’s shell company, BONB LLC, aka BioScan, and other entities.

Four other defendants were indicted in this case on health care fraud and money laundering charges and are scheduled for a jury trial on April 6, 2015. An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case is being 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 U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Christopher J. Hunter 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.

South Florida Man Sentenced to Prison for $10.5 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

A south Florida man was sentenced today in federal court in Tampa, Florida, to serve 48 months in prison in connection with a $10.5 million Medicare fraud scheme involving physical and occupational therapy services.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III for the Middle District of Florida, Acting Special Agent in Charge Ryan Lynch of the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) region including all of Florida, and Special Agent in Charge Paul Wysopal of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office made the announcement.
Luis Alberto Garcia Perojo (Garcia), 43, previously pleaded guilty to an information charging him with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.    In addition to his prison term, he was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $6,248,056 in restitution, jointly and severally with his co-conspirators.
According to documents filed in the case, Garcia conspired with others to execute a health care fraud scheme through Renew Therapy Center of Port St. Lucie LLC (Renew Therapy), a comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facility that he helped operate.    From November 2007 through August 2009, Renew Therapy submitted approximately $10,549,361 in fraudulent claims for reimbursement to Medicare for therapy services that were not legitimately prescribed and not legitimately provided to Medicare beneficiaries.    As a result of those fraudulent claims, Medicare deposited approximately $6,248,056 into a Renew Therapy bank account.    The fraud proceeds in that account were subsequently disbursed to various entities, including $1,847,222 to Ariguanabo Investment Group Inc. and IRE Diagnostic Center Inc.    Garcia was President of Ariguanabo Investment Group and had authority over bank accounts for Ariguanabo Investment Group and IRE Diagnostic Center, both of which were shell companies.    Garcia and others used this money from Renew Therapy for, among other purposes, paying kickbacks to obtain Medicare beneficiary identifying information that was used in Renew Therapy’s fraudulent reimbursement claims.

This case is being 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 Middle District of Florida.    This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Christopher J. Hunter 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 more than 1,900 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 billion.    In addition, the HHS 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.

Former Owner of Physical Therapy Clinic Sentenced to Prison in Connection with Health Care Fraud Scheme

A Florida man who was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud was sentenced to serve 27 months in prison today in federal court in Tampa, Florida.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida A. Lee Bentley III, Acting Special Agent in Charge Ryan Lynch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Florida region, and Special Agent in Charge Paul Wysopal of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office made the announcement.
Jose Pascual, 36, previously pleaded guilty to an information charging him with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.     In addition to his prison term, he was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $1,292,375 in restitution, jointly and severally with his co-conspirators.
According to documents filed in the case, in February 2007, Pascual purchased R&R Outpatient LLC, an outpatient physical therapy provider with locations in Fort Myers and Ocala, Florida.    Pascual and his co-conspirators then caused reimbursement claims to be submitted on behalf of R&R Outpatient to Medicare fraudulently representing that physical and occupational therapy services had been legitimately prescribed by physicians and provided to Medicare beneficiaries.    Pascual and his co-conspirators fabricated medical records to support the fraudulent claims.    As a result of the fraudulent claims, Medicare paid approximately $1,124,826 to R&R Outpatient.    Pascual and his co-conspirators also recycled Medicare beneficiary information from R&R Outpatient in order to submit fraudulent reimbursement claims to Medicare through other clinics.
This 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 Middle District of Florida.    The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Christopher J. Hunter of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Simon Gaugush.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 1,900 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 billion.    In addition, the HHS 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.

Former Employee of U.S. Contractor Pleads Guilty to Fraud Scheme

A former employee of a U.S. contractor pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection with a contract to provide reconstruction-related services in Afghanistan.
Acting Assistant Attorney General David O’Neil of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida A. Lee Bentley made the announcement.
Alan D. Simmons pleaded guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia D. Barksdale in the Middle District of Florida.
According to court documents, Simmons worked in Afghanistan as a training program coordinator for PAE Inc.  PAE had a contract with the United States Department of State to train and supply uniforms to Afghan correctional officers.    Simmons was responsible for providing information to others at PAE as to the number and types of uniforms that were to be ordered and provided to the Afghan correctional officers upon their completion of the training program.
As alleged in court documents, Simmons and others created a company, Aminzian Logistics Services (Aminzian), ostensibly to provide uniforms to PAE as a subcontractor.    In fact, Aminzian would submit false and fraudulent invoices to PAE seeking payment for goods that were not in fact provided.    After Aminzian was paid, Simmons and his co-conspirators split the proceeds.    The United States reimbursed PAE for its payments to Aminzian and incurred a loss of over $120,000.
The case was investigated by the Department of State Office of Inspector General and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).    This case was prosecuted by Special Trial Attorney Mark H. Dubester, on detail from SIGAR, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin C. Frein of the Middle District of Florida.

 

Former Wellcare Chief Executive Sentenced for Health Care Fraud

Former WellCare Chief Executive Officer Todd S. Farha, 45, of Tampa, Florida, was sentenced today in the Middle District of Florida to serve 36 months in prison for defrauding the Florida Medicaid program.
Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. O’Neil of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida made the announcement after Farha was sentenced by U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr.
Farha was convicted by a federal jury in the Middle District of Florida on June 10, 2013, of two counts of health care fraud.
According to court records and evidence at trial, Farha and others orchestrated a scheme to defraud the Florida Medicaid program from the summer of 2003 through the fall of 2007 by making fraudulent statements relating to expenditures for behavioral health care services.
WellCare operates health maintenance organizations (HMOs) in several states providing services through government-sponsored health care benefit programs like Medicaid.  Two WellCare HMOs operating in Florida, StayWell and Healthease, contracted with the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), the Florida agency that administers the Medicaid program, to provide Florida Medicaid program recipients with an array of services, including behavioral health services.
In 2002, Florida enacted a statute that required Florida Medicaid HMOs to expend 80 percent of the Medicaid premium paid for certain behavioral health services upon the provision of those services. In the event that the HMO expended less than 80 percent of the premium, the difference was required to be returned to AHCA. As part of the scheme, Farha and others fraudulently submitted inflated expenditure information in the company’s annual reports to AHCA to reduce the WellCare HMOs’ contractual repayment obligations for behavioral health care services.
On May 5, 2009 the government filed related charges in an information and a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) against WellCare. Pursuant to that DPA, WellCare was required to pay $40 million in restitution, forfeit another $40 million to the United States and cooperate with the government’s criminal investigation.  The company complied with all of the requirements of the DPA.    As a result, the information was later dismissed by the court following a government motion.    In a related civil qui tam case, Wellcare agreed to pay $137.5 million in civil fines and penalties.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the FBI, and the Florida Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.  The case was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney John Michelich of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant United States Attorneys Jay Trezevant and Cherie Krigsman and Special Assistant United States Attorney John Bowers of the Middle District of Florida