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

Friday, September 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

United States Files Civil Fraud Complaint Against Former Deutsche Bank Head of Subprime Mortgage Trading

Monday, September 11, 2017

Defendant Involved in the Sale of Over $1 Billion in Deutsche Bank Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities

The United States today filed a civil complaint in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, against Paul Mangione, former Deutsche Bank head of subprime trading. In its complaint, the United States alleges that Mangione engaged in a fraudulent scheme to misrepresent the characteristics of loans backing two residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) that Deutsche Bank sold to investors that resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. This suit is brought pursuant to the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) and seeks an appropriate civil penalty.

As alleged in the complaint, Mangione engaged in a fraudulent scheme to sell ACE 2007-HE4 (HE4) — a $ 1 billion security — and ACE 2007-HE5 (HE5) — a $400 million security — by misleading investors about the quality of the loans backing the securitizations. The complaint further alleges that Mangione also misled investors about the origination practices of Deutsche Bank’s wholly-owned subsidiary, DB Home Lending LLC (DB Home) (f/k/a Chapel Funding LLC), which was the primary originator of loans included in the deals. Mangione approved offering documents for HE4 and HE5 even though he knew they misrepresented key characteristics of the loans, including compliance with lending guidelines, borrowers’ ability to pay, borrowers’ fraud and appraisal accuracy.

The HE4 and HE5 offering documents also falsely represented that DB Home had “developed internal underwriting guidelines that it believe[d] generated quality loans” and that DB Home had instituted a quality control process that “monitor[ed] loan production with the overall goal of improving the quality of loan production,” among numerous other representations designed to instill in investors trust in DB Home’s underwriting processes. As alleged in the complaint, Mangione knew that these statements were false.

“The defendant fraudulently induced investors, including pension plans, religious organizations, financial institutions and government-sponsored entities, to name only a few, to invest nearly a billion and a half dollars in HE4 and HE5 RMBS, and caused them to suffer extraordinary losses as a result,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rohde for the Eastern District of New York. “We will hold accountable those who seek to deceive the investing public through fraud and misrepresentation.”

“The government’s complaint alleges that Mr. Mangione knew that certain of Deutsche Bank’s RMBS contained unsound mortgages that did not meet the credit or appraisal standards that the bank represented,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “By allegedly misleading investors about the riskiness of these securities, Mr. Mangione prioritized his and his employer’s bottom line over principles of honesty and fair dealing. The Department of Justice will continue to pursue those who engage in fraud as a way to conduct business.”

“As alleged in today’s filing, this individual knowingly took steps during the lead up to the financial crisis to sell defective mortgage loans while hiding the poor quality of the loans from investors,” said Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Rene Febles for the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of the Inspector General. “This conduct was deliberately fraudulent and resulted in significant losses for the investors. We are committed to working with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York to hold accountable those who engaged in fraud in the secondary market for mortgages.”

In January 2017, the Department of Justice settled a related RMBS matter with Deutsche Bank.

The United States’ case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward K. Newman and Ryan M. Wilson. Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rohde and Acting Assistant Attorney General Readler thanked the Office of the Inspector General for the Federal Housing Finance Administration for its assistance in conducting the investigation in this matter.

The Case number is E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-CV-5305 (NGG).

Senior Executives Of Medical Drug Re-Packager Plead Guilty To Defrauding Healthcare Providers

Friday, July 14, 2017

President and Pharmacist-in-Charge Distributed Cancer Drugs Contaminated With Mold

Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Gerald Tighe, the president and owner of Med Prep Consulting Inc. (Med Prep), and Stephen Kalinoski, its director of pharmacy and registered pharmacist-in-charge, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy in connection with their operation of the now-defunct Tinton Falls, New Jersey-based medical drug re-packager and compounding pharmacy. The pleas were entered before United States District Judge I. Leo Glasser.

The guilty pleas were announced by Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Mark McCormack, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, Metropolitan Washington Field Office (FDA/OCI).

According to court filings and facts presented during the plea proceeding, Med Prep processed numerous drugs, including oncology and dialysis drugs, pain medications, anesthesia drugs, and operating room drugs, in purportedly aseptic conditions. In an effort to gain market share, Med Prep repeatedly misrepresented to its customers, who consisted of hospitals and other healthcare providers, that it adhered to, and in some areas exceeded, industry standards and laws applicable to sterile drug preparation. In fact, Med Prep produced drugs in a facility that fell far short of basic industry standards of cleanliness, creating a risk to the health of already ill patients. Tighe and Kalinoski lied to healthcare providers about Med Prep’s failures to comply with basic sterility practices. Med Prep halted its production of drug products in the summer of 2013, following an incident in which it had distributed intravenous drugs containing visible mold to a Connecticut hospital.

“Today’s guilty pleas mark an important step in our continuing effort to hold accountable those who pursue corporate profits over the health and safety of vulnerable patients suffering from disease,” said Acting United States Attorney Rohde. In announcing the guilty plea, Ms. Rohde gratefully acknowledged the assistance and cooperation of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, Office of Investigations; the United States Office of Personnel Management, Office of the Inspector General; the Department of Justice, Civil Division, Consumer Protection Branch and Commercial Litigation Branch; the FDA’s Office of the Chief Counsel; the Office of the Attorney General of New Jersey; and the New Jersey Board of Pharmacy.

“Producing unsafe and contaminated drugs poses a serious threat to the U.S. public health and cannot be tolerated,” stated FDA/OCI Special Agent-in-Charge McCormack. “The FDA remains fully committed to aggressively pursuing those who place unsuspecting American consumers at risk by distributing adulterated drugs.”

The sentencing, Tighe and Kalinoski each face up to five years in prison, a fine and the forfeiture of criminal proceeds. They will also be required to make full restitution to their victims.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alixandra E. Smith, Ameet B. Kabrawala and Erin E. Argo.

The Defendants:

GERALD TIGHE

Age: 59

West Long Branch, New Jersey

STEPHEN KALINOSKI

Age: 53

Middletown, New Jersey

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 15-CR-62 (ILG)

SEC Announces Charges in Massive Telemarketing Boiler Room Scheme Targeting Seniors

Washington D.C., July 12, 2017—

The Securities and Exchange Commission today brought fraud charges against 13 individuals allegedly involved in two Long Island-based cold calling scams that bilked more than one hundred victims out of more than $10 million through high-pressure sales tactics and lies about penny stocks.

The SEC alleges that the orchestrators of the scheme used boiler room-style call centers to make hundreds of thousands of cold calls that included the use of threatening and deceitful sales techniques to pressure victims – many of whom were senior citizens – into purchasing penny stocks.  For example, as part of one such scam, a boiler room salesman allegedly claimed that the Walt Disney Company was buying into a purported media and internet company and that would cause the penny stock’s price to increase substantially.

During these calls, victims were allegedly harassed and threatened by sales personnel.  When one victim complained about his losses, a sales representative allegedly said, “I am tired of hearing from you.  Do you have any rope at home?  If so tie a knot and hang yourself or get a gun and blow your head off.”  According to the SEC’s complaint, in a typical phone call, telemarketers would direct victims to place trades and tell them how many shares to purchase and at what price.  With this information about the victims’ trades, the orchestrators and the boiler room sales personnel allegedly placed opposing sell orders to dump their own shares, realizing more than $14 million in illegal proceeds while the victims lost millions of dollars, including retirement savings.

SEC investigators learned of the alleged scheme from investor complaints and used technological tools and innovative investigative approaches to build evidence – within a matter of months from receiving the complaints – against the defendants who went to great lengths to evade detection.

“These kinds of scams cause devastating harm to investors,” said Stephanie Avakian, Co-Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division.  “Investors must beware of the sort of conduct alleged in our complaint – things like unsolicited calls, high-pressure sales tactics, and promises that a no-name stock is going to skyrocket.”

Scott W. Friestad, Associate Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, added, “The defendants allegedly used boiler rooms and high-pressure sales tactics to swindle seniors into investing their life savings in microcap securities they were secretly manipulating for their own profit.  But, through a combination of technology and innovative investigative approaches, we were able to unravel the alleged scheme and prevent further investor harm.”

In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York announced criminal charges.

The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal district court in Brooklyn, N.Y., charges all defendants with fraud and nine with market manipulation.  The SEC is seeking permanent injunctions, disgorgement with interest, civil penalties, penny stock bars, and an officer-and-director bar from one of the orchestrators of the scheme.  The complaint also names 27 individuals and entities that received proceeds from the fraud, as relief defendants.

The SEC’s complaint also charges certain defendants with acting as unregistered brokers.  The SEC encourages investors to check the backgrounds of people selling them investments by using the SEC’s investor.gov website to quickly identify whether they are registered professionals.

The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by Andrew Elliott and Cecilia Connor and assisted by Leigh Barrett.  The investigation was supervised by Scott Friestad and Amy Friedman.  The SEC’s litigation will be handled by Matthew Scarlato and James Smith and supervised by Jan Folena.  The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, British Columbia Securities Commission, Ontario Securities Commission, and Oregon Division of Financial Regulation.

The SEC encourages victims of the alleged fraud to contact PowerTraderVictims@sec.gov .  The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy previously issued an alert warning investors that aggressive stock promotion is a red flag of fraud.

“Investors should be skeptical anytime they receive an unsolicited communication promoting a stock – it could be a part of a boiler room scheme,” said Lori Schock, Director of the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy.  “If you receive a phone call from a high-pressure salesperson who uses harassment and threats to get your business, hang up.”

Brooklyn Pharmacy Owner/Operator Charged With Defrauding Medicare And Medicaid Programs Of Approximately $9 Million

Monday, July 10, 2017

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Regional Office for the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (“HHS-OIG”), and Dennis Rosen, Inspector General of the New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (“OMIG”), announced today the unsealing of a criminal Complaint charging defendant SUNITA KUMAR with operating a health care fraud scheme utilizing two pharmacies in Brooklyn, New York, through which KUMAR submitted approximately $9 million in fraudulent claims to Medicaid and Medicare. KUMAR was arrested this morning and was presented in Manhattan federal court today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck.

Manhattan Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “As alleged, Sunita Kumar defrauded Medicare and Medicaid, public programs to assist the indigent and the elderly, by submitting $9 million in fraudulent claims. She allegedly did so by inducing people to surrender their own prescriptions and forego their medications in exchange for kickbacks. Medicare and Medicaid provide critical health care for some of our most vulnerable citizens. Together with our law enforcement partners, we will aggressively pursue those who allegedly use public programs as a vehicle for illegal personal profit.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “Exploiting our federal and state health care programs places the economy at a significant disadvantage and threatens the stability of the health care industry overall. Because there’s no single, clearly identifiable victim, the public often finds these schemes incomparable to other, more explicit frauds. But everyone deserves to know that health care fraud alone costs this country tens of billions of dollars a year, not to mention the obvious health safety risks it presents. We will continue to confront this type of crime, and root it out, until it no longer exists.”

HHS-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Scott J. Lampert said: “Prescription drug scams, such as the one alleged in this case, work to undermine our nation’s health care system. Today’s arrest coordinated with our law enforcement partners serve as a stern warning to pharmacy owners tempted to plunder government health programs meant to care for our most vulnerable citizens.”

Medicaid Inspector General Dennis Rosen said: “Exploiting the Medicaid program for personal gain by preying upon New York’s most-vulnerable populations is reprehensible. We will continue to work closely with our federal, state and local partners to hold wrongdoers fully accountable and protect the integrity of the Medicaid program.”

According to the allegations contained in the Complaint[1]:

KUMAR – while owning one pharmacy herself and operating a second pharmacy, both located in Brooklyn, New York – conducted a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid programs by fraudulently seeking reimbursements for prescription drugs. Specifically, KUMAR engaged in a scheme to obtain prescriptions for medications, for which her pharmacies billed and received reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, but which she did not actually dispense to customers. From in or about January 2015 through in or about December 2016, KUMAR obtained approximately $9 million in reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid for prescription drugs that her pharmacies never actually dispensed. KUMAR defrauded Medicare and Medicaid into providing her pharmacies with these reimbursements by obtaining prescriptions from other individuals, who were willing to forego delivery of the medications in exchange for a share of the reimbursed proceeds, in the form of kickbacks paid by KUMAR.

* * *

KUMAR, 54, of Old Westbury, New York, is charged with one count of health care fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and one count of paying illegal remuneration in the form of kickbacks, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Kim praised the investigative work of the FBI, HHS-OIG, and OMIG.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher J. DiMase and Sarah E. Paul are in charge of the prosecution.

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


[1] As the introductory phase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Remarks about Massive Medicare Fraud Strike Force Takedown

Remarks by Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. O’Neil for the Medicare Fraud Strike Force Takedown

WASHINGTON ~ Tuesday, May 13, 2014
In today’s nationwide takedown, scores of defendants were arrested across the country for engaging in health care fraud – to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent bills to Medicare.   Among the defendants charged today were doctors, home health care providers, doctor’s assistants, pharmacy owners and medical supply company executives.   The crimes charged represent the face of health care fraud today – doctors billing for services that were never rendered, supply companies providing motorized wheelchairs that were never needed, recruiters paying kickbacks to get Medicare billing numbers of patients.   The fraud was rampant, it was brazen, and it permeated every part of the Medicare system.

But law enforcement is striking back.   In Brooklyn, Tampa, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, and right here in Miami, 90 defendants were charged today with having submitted over $260 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare.   Using cutting-edge, data-driven investigative techniques to find fraud, we are bringing fraudsters to justice and saving the American taxpayers billions of dollars.   Overall, since its inception, the Department of Justice’s Medicare Strike Force has charged nearly 1,900 individuals involved in approximately $6 billion of fraud.

Today’s defendants played a variety of key roles in the schemes alleged in this takedown.   But most strikingly, at the center of this takedown are the 27 medical professionals, including 16 physicians, who we allege breached the public trust and their professional duties of care, selling out their medical licenses for the lure of easy money.

For example, in Houston, we are announcing charges against five doctors employed by a health care clinic who were paid to provide $1.4 million worth of referrals for home health treatments that were not necessary and often not even provided.

In Los Angeles, we have charged a physician with false billings for medically unnecessary home health and medical equipment orders that cost Medicare over $23 million — including hundreds of expensive power wheelchairs for people who did not need or want them.

In some of these schemes, we saw doctors going to extravagant lengths to conceal their fraud.  In Detroit, we charged a doctor who allegedly conspired with his billing company to conceal his false billings through a complex web of sham partnerships with other health care companies.

In other schemes, we seized extravagant fruits of the crimes, including bank accounts, jewelry, and luxury vehicles tied to the scheme.

The foundation for the success of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force is data.   Cold, hard data.  Medicare recently made physician billing data public for the first time, which has prompted reporters and researchers to take a close look at who is billing Medicare for what.   Our agents and prosecutors have used those numbers and other real-time data for years.   We take that data, provided to us by CMS, and we use sophisticated analytic tools to identify billing patterns that stand out compared to other health care providers in their communities.   The result?   We have identified billions of dollars in Medicare fraud, spread across the country.   This real-time data helps us pinpoint new schemes as they arise so we can stay one step ahead of the fraudsters.

But it is not just data.   We are also using traditional law enforcement techniques used in other types of investigations, like those used in corruption or organized crime cases, to develop evidence.   Undercover officers, Title III wiretaps, hidden cameras, GPS trackers. And I also want to highlight the role that Medicare beneficiaries can play in rooting out fraud.   In many of the schemes charged today, powerful evidence of fraud came from Medicare beneficiaries finding out what was billed to Medicare using their numbers and coming forward to tell law enforcement what they were seeing.

We are investigating and prosecuting all levels of these schemes – from the recruiters to the medical professionals to the owners of these clinics.   We will bring to justice those who steal from Medicare.   With an overall conviction rate of 95%, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has sent that message to over 1,400 Medicare fraudsters who have been convicted since the Strike Force began operations in 2007.   In fact, just yesterday, a jury convicted a Dallas doctor who took cash in exchange for falsely certifying that Medicare beneficiaries qualified for home health services.

Make no mistake, together with our partners in the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, and the Department of Health and Human Services, the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice will continue to aggressively investigate health care fraud using every tool available to us.   We are committed to the fight against Medicare fraud.   We will bring to justice those who loot our nation’s health care funds, and we will recover what has been stolen.

Thank you.

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