Former Government Contractor Sentenced to 60 Months for His Participation in Bribery Conspiracy

Friday, July 28, 2017

A former owner of a government contracting company that serviced the Military Sealift Command (MSC) was sentenced to 60 months in prison, and to pay a $15,000 fine, for his participation in a bribery conspiracy from approximately 1999 to 2014, in which he provided a contracting official at MSC with almost $3 million in bribes.  Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia made the announcement.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen today sentenced Joseph P. Allen, 56, of Panama City, Florida, following his guilty plea on April 19, to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.

According to the statement of facts included in Allen’s guilty plea, Allen conspired with a government contracting official, Scott B. Miserendino, Sr., 58, formerly of Stafford, Virginia, to use Miserendino’s position at MSC to enrich themselves through bribery.  Specifically, beginning in about 1999, Miserendino used his position and influence at MSC to facilitate and expand Allen’s company’s commission agreement with a third-party telecommunications company that sold maritime satellite services to MSC.  Unknown to MSC or the telecommunications company, throughout the scheme, Allen paid half of the commissions he received from that telecommunications company to Miserendino as bribes.

For his role in the scheme, Miserendino was charged in a five-count indictment on May 4, with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services mail fraud, one count of bribery, and three counts of honest services mail fraud.  His trial is currently scheduled for October 31, before U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Beach Smith.  The charges and allegations against Miserendino contained in the indictment are merely accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The Norfolk offices of the FBI, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigated the case.  Trial Attorneys Sean F. Mulryne and Molly Gaston of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen W. Haynie of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.

Hudson County, New Jersey, Man Sentenced To 63 Months In Prison For Masterminding Fake ID Website And Participating In ‘SIRF’ Scheme

Thursday, July 27, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. – A Jersey City, New Jersey, man was sentenced today to 63 months in prison for his role in two separate conspiracies: one to create and operate a website that sold high-quality, custom-made fake identification documents, some of which were later used to commit financial crimes, and a second to fraudulently obtain tax refund checks, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Ricardo Rosario, 34, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark federal court to an information charging him with conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with authentication features and conspiracy to submit false claims to the U.S. Government. Judge Linares imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From October 2012 through August 2014, Rosario, with the assistance of Abraham Corcino, 34, of Jersey City, and Alexis Scott Carthens, 38, of Newark, sold fake driver’s licenses over the Internet, running a website that was available at “fakeidstore.com” and “fakedlstore.com.” A number of the fake driver’s licenses sold by Rosario and other conspirators were used in connection with “cash out” schemes, where stolen credit card information, usually obtained through hacking or ATM skimming operations, was encoded on to counterfeit credit cards and used to steal cash from victims’ accounts.

Rosario created and ran the website. Corcino and Carthens assisted him by creating and mailing the fake driver’s licenses purchased through the website. Corcino also maintained an Instagram account to promote the website. The website sold fake New Jersey, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin driver’s licenses, and the website boasted that the licenses had “scannable barcodes” and “real” holographic overlays. The price for each fake driver’s license was approximately $150, but the website offered bulk pricing for orders of 10 or more.

The website allowed its users to pay by bitcoin, a cryptographic-based digital currency, or MoneyPak, a type of prepaid payment card that could be purchased at retail stores. The “FAQ” section of the website indicated that orders would be received approximately one to two days after payment was received and described the website’s policy with respect to returns: “No Refunds. No snitching.”

In the Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) conspiracy, Rosario assisted Carthens, who obtained stolen personally identifiable information (PII) primarily in the form of lab testing request forms that he purchased from another individual. Rosario provided Carthens with email accounts and drop addresses used in furtherance of the scheme. The email accounts were used to register accounts for online tax filing services and prepaid card accounts used to apply for and receive the tax refunds. The drop addresses were used to physically receive the refunds in the form of prepaid debit cards.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Linares sentenced Rosario to three years of supervised release and ordered forfeiture of $232,660 and restitution of $121,922.

Corcino was sentenced on April 17, 2017, to three years of probation. Carthens pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme on April 25, 2016, and is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 28, 2017.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James V. Buthorn, and special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Zach Intrater of the Economic Crimes Unit and Barbara Ward, Acting Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit in Newark.

Defense counsel: Brian Neary Esq., Hackensack, New Jersey

New Jersey Man Sentenced To 39 Months In Prison For Defrauding Investors

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. – A North Caldwell, New Jersey, man was sentenced today to 39 months in prison for fraudulently using more than $550,000 in investment funds that he solicited to purchase and sell consumer products in bulk, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Michael Esposito, 45, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William J. Martini to an information charging him with one count of wire fraud. Judge Martini imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From August 2013 through February 2017, Esposito was the president of numerous entities that purported to purchase consumer products in bulk from manufacturers for resale to wholesalers and retailers. Esposito told potential investors that he could purchase consumer goods – such as soda and bottled water – at substantial discounts, and that he had buyers ready to purchase the products at a significant profit.

In return for providing the funds necessary to purchase the products, Esposito promised the victim investors a large percentage of the profits. However, Esposito used the funds for his personal expenses and to pay other investors in order to make it appear the money was properly used. Esposito admitted that his actions resulted in losses of more than $550,000.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Martini sentenced Esposito to three years of supervised release. Restitution will be determined at a late date.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents with the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, with the investigation. He also thanked investigators with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation for their assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Kogan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit and Sarah Devlin of the Asset Forfeiture Unit in Newark.

Defense counsel: Brooke M. Barnett Esq., Newark

Owner Of Tampa Parathyroid Practice Agrees To Pay $4 Million To Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

Monday, July 24, 2017

Tampa, FL  – Dr. James Norman, the owner and operator of James Norman, MD, PA, a/k/a James Norman, MD, PA Parathyroid Center, d/b/a Norman Parathyroid Center (collectively, Norman) has agreed to pay $4 million to resolve allegations that he violated the False Claims Act by knowingly engaging in various unlawful billing practices with respect to Medicare and other federal health care programs and their beneficiaries.

Specifically, the government alleges that, from April 2008 through December 2016, Dr. Norman submitted fraudulent claims to Medicare, TRICARE, and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program for pre-operative examinations performed on the day before or the day of surgery, and charged and collected extra fees from federal health care beneficiaries for services for which he had already received payment from the government. These extra fees ranged from $150 to $750 for Florida residents, to $1,750 or more for patients who lived out-of-state. Collectively, Dr. Norman and his practice pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of these illicit billing practices.

“Fraudulent billing of the government, while also charging Medicare and other federal health care beneficiaries extra fees for services that the government has already paid for victimizes taxpayers, military veterans, the elderly, and other members of our community, and will not be tolerated,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Muldrow. “This lawsuit and today’s settlement demonstrates our office’s ongoing efforts to safeguard federal health care program beneficiaries from the effects of such illegal conduct.”

In addition to paying $4 million, Norman has also agreed to enter into an integrity agreement with the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Physicians who systematically overbill Federal health care programs and their vulnerable patients will be held responsible for this fraudulent behavior,” said Special Agent in Charge Shimon R. Richmond of HHS-OIG. “Those who engage in such schemes can expect a thorough investigation and strong remedial measures such as those in the Integrity Agreement we signed with Dr. Norman.”

The settlement concludes a lawsuit originally filed by a former patient of Dr. Norman, Myra Gross, and her husband, Dr. David Gross, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. 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. Act also allows the government to intervene and take over the action, as it did in this case. Ms. Gross and her husband, Dr. Gross, will receive roughly $600,000 of the proceeds from the settlement with Norman.

The government’s action in this matter illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Tips from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General. It was handled Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Tuite.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Gross, et al. v. James Norman, MD, PA, et al., Case No. 8:14-cv-978-T-33EAJ. The settlement resolves the United States’ claims in that case. The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Alleged Head of Wildlife Smuggling Ring Extradited from Australia

Monday, July 24, 2017

Guan Zong Chen (“Graham Chen”), a Chinese national was arraigned today in federal court in Boston, Massachusetts on charges that he led a conspiracy to illegally export (smuggle) $700,000 worth of wildlife items made from rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory and coral from the United States to Hong Kong. Chen was arrested last year when he traveled from China to Australia and today’s hearing was his first court appearance on an indictment returned by a Boston grand jury in 2015 and unsealed in anticipation of the hearing.

According to the eight-count indictment, Chen purchased the wildlife artifacts at U.S. auction houses located in California, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Texas. He conspired with another Chinese national, a recent college graduate in China to travel to the United States to pick up the purchased items and either hand carry or arrange for them to be mailed to another co-conspirator that owned a shipping business in Concord, Massachusetts. The shipper then repacked the wildlife items and exported (smuggled) them to Hong Kong with documents that falsely stated their contents and value and without obtaining required declarations and permits. In April 2014, Chen visited the United States and visited the shipper in Concord, Massachusetts. During the visit with the shipper, CHEN instructed the shipper to illegally export (smuggle) a sculpture made from elephant ivory to Hong Kong on Chen’s behalf and falsely declared it to be made of wood and worth $50.

The unsealing of the indictment and court appearance were was announced today by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb of the District of Massachusetts. In announcing the case today, Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood and Acting U.S. Attorney Weinreb expressed their appreciation to the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Attorney-General’s Department for their help in apprehending Chen and extraditing him to the United States.

Trade in rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory and coral have been regulated since 1976 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by over 175 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife, and plants that are or may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets. Animals listed under CITES cannot be exported from the United States without prior notification to, and approval from, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

was apprehended as part of Operation Crash, an ongoing effort by the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service, in coordination with the Department of Justice to detect, deter, and prosecute those engaged in the illegal killing of and trafficking in protected species including rhinoceros and elephants.

An indictment contains allegations that crimes have been committed. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The investigation is continuing and is being handled by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts and support on the extradition from DOJ’s Office of International Affairs and the U.S. Marshals Services in the District of Massachusetts. The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel Richard A. Udell and Trial Attorney Gary N. Donner of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

South Florida Man Charged With Credit Card Fraud And Identity Theft Involving Personal Information From Veterans

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Jacksonville, Florida – Acting United States Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow announces the return of an indictment charging Dwayne Thomas (21, Miami) with one count of credit card fraud and nine counts of identity theft. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in federal prison for the credit card fraud count and up to 5 years’ imprisonment on each of the identity theft counts.

According to the indictment and information presented in court, Thomas was in possession of multiple credit card account numbers from Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and USAA. He also possessed the Social Security numbers of multiple former members of the military who were receiving healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General Criminal Investigation Division, the United States Secret Service -Jacksonville Field Office, and the Florida Highway Patrol. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kevin C. Frein.

Nine Miami-Dade Assisted Living Facility Owners Sentenced to Federal Prison for Receipt of Health Care Kickbacks

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Miami-Dade County assisted living facility owners, Marlene Marrero, 60, of Miami, Norma Casanova, 67, of Miami Lakes, Yeny De Erbiti, 51, of Miami, Rene Vega, 57, of Miami, Maribel Galvan, 43, of Miami Lakes, Dianelys Perez, 34, of Miami Gardens, Osniel Vera, 47, of Hialeah, Alicia Almeida, 56, of Miami Lakes, and Jorge Rodriguez, 57, of Hialeah, were sentenced to prison for receiving health care kickbacks. United States District Judge Marcia G. Cooke imposed sentences upon the nine defendants ranging from eight months to one year and one day, in prison. One assisted living facility owner, Blanca Orozco, 69, of Miramar, was sentenced to home confinement. In addition to their federal convictions, all ten defendants were also ordered to serve three years of supervised release, pay restitution and are subject to forfeiture judgments.

Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Pam Bondi, Florida Attorney General, Shimon R. Richmond, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.

All ten defendants previously pled guilty to receipt of kickbacks in connection with a federal health care program, in violation of Title 42, United States Code, Section 1320a-7b(b)(1)(A). According to court documents, these assisted living facility owners conspired with the former owner of Florida Pharmacy to receive kickbacks and bribes in exchange for referring beneficiaries living in their facilities for prescription medication and durable medical equipment paid for by Medicare and Medicaid. The assisted living facility owners participated in the fraudulent scheme, in violation of their Medicaid provider agreement as well as federal and state anti-kickback rules and regulations.

Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force participating partners, including HHS-OIG, the State of Florida’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and the FBI. The case was prosecution by Special Assistant United States Attorney Hagerenesh Simmons.

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.

In addition, 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.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Clinical Psychologist and Owner of Psychological Services Centers Sentenced to 264 Months for Roles in $25 Million Psychological Testing Scheme Carried out Through Eight Companies in Four States

Friday, July 14, 2017

Two owners of psychological services companies, one of whom was a clinical psychologist, were sentenced yesterday for their involvement in a $25.2 million Medicare fraud scheme carried out through eight companies at nursing homes in four states in the Southeastern U.S.

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

Rodney Hesson, 47, of Slidell, Louisiana, and Gertrude Parker, 63 of Slidell, Louisiana, were sentenced on July 13, to 180 months’ imprisonment and 84 months’ imprisonment by U.S. District Court Judge Carl J. Barbier of the Eastern District of Louisiana. Judge Barbier also ordered Hesson to pay $13,800,553.57 in restitution, and ordered Parker to pay $7,313,379.75 in restitution. The defendants were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to make false statements related to health care matters on January 24.

According to evidence presented at trial, Hesson and Parker’s companies, Nursing Home Psychological Services (NHPS) and Psychological Care Services (PCS), respectively, contracted with nursing homes in Alabama, Florida, Lousiana and Mississippi to allow NHPS and PCS clinical psychologists to provide psychological services to nursing home residents. Hesson and Parker caused these companies to bill Medicare for psychological testing services that these nursing home residents did not need or in some instances did not receive, the trial evidence showed. During trial, evidence was entered showing that between 2009 and 2015, NHPS and PCS submitted over $25.2 million in claims to Medicare, the vast majority of which were fraudulent, while Medicare paid more than $13.5 million on the fraudulent claims. The jury verdict included a money judgment of $8,956,278, as well as forfeiture of Hesson’s home and at least $525,629 in seized currency.

The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and brought by 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 Louisiana. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Litigiation Counsel John Michelich and Trial Attorneys Katherine Raut and Katherine Payerle of the Fraud Section.

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 over 3,000 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for over $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.

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

Florida Businessman Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring to Commit Tax and Bank Fraud

Monday, July 17, 2017

Concealed Approximately $2.5 Million in Secret Belize Accounts

A Florida businessman was sentenced today to 57 months in prison in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida for conspiring to commit tax and 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, Casey Padula, 48, of Port Charlotte, was the sole shareholder of Demandblox Inc., a marketing and information technology business. Padula conspired with others to move funds for his benefit from Demandblox to offshore accounts in Belize and disguised these transfers as business expenses in Demandblox’s corporate records. Padula created two offshore companies in Belize: Intellectual Property Partners Inc. (IPPI) and Latin American Labor Outsourcing Inc. (LALO). He opened and controlled bank accounts in the names of these entities at Heritage International Bank & Trust Limited (Heritage Bank), a financial institution located in Belize. From 2012 through 2013, Padula caused periodic payments to be sent from Demandblox to his accounts at Heritage Bank and deposited approximately $2,490,688. Padula used the funds to pay for personal expenses and purchase significant personal assets. However, he falsely recorded these payments in Demandblox’s corporate books as intellectual property rights or royalty fees and deducted them as business expenses on Demandblox’s 2012 and 2013 corporate tax returns. As a result of these false deductions, Padula caused a tax loss of more than $728,000.

Padula also conspired with investment advisors Joshua VanDyk and Eric St-Cyr at Clover Asset Management (CAM), a Cayman Islands investment firm, to open and fund an investment account that he would control, but that would not be in his name. Heritage Bank had an account at CAM in its name and its clients could get a subaccount through Heritage Bank that would not be in the client’s name but rather would be a numbered account. Padula transferred $1,000,080 from the IPPI bank account at Heritage Bank in Belize to CAM to fund a numbered account that concealed his financial interest in it. Padula failed to disclose this account to the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) despite being required to do so under the law.

In addition to the tax fraud, Padula also conspired with others to commit bank fraud. Padula had a mortgage on his Port Charlotte, Florida home of approximately $1.5 million with Bank of America (BoA). In 2012, he sent a letter to the bank stating that he could no longer repay his loan. At the same time, Padula provided Robert Robinson III, 43, who acted as a nominee buyer, with more than $625,000 from his IPPI bank account in Belize to fund a short sale of Padula’s home. Padula and Robinson signed a contract, which falsely represented that the property was sold through an “arms-length transaction,” and agreed that Padula would not be permitted to remain in the property after the sale. Padula in fact never moved from his home and less than two months after the closing, Robinson conveyed it back to Padula by transferring ownership to one of Padula’s Belizean entities for $1. Robinson was also sentenced today to five years of probation for signing a false Form HUD-1 in connection with his role in the scheme.

“Casey Padula used secret numbered bank accounts, foreign shell companies and phony deductions to hide millions and evade U.S. taxes,” said Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg. “His 57 month sentence today makes clear that there is no place safe in the world for tax cheats to hide their money and feel secure that the Department of Justice and the IRS will not uncover their scheme and hold them fully accountable.”

“As Mr. Padula has learned, using shell companies and offshore accounts is not tax planning; it’s tax fraud,” said Chief Don Fort of IRS Criminal Investigation (CI). “The use of sophisticated international financial transactions does not prevent IRS CI from following the trail of money back to the person breaking the law. In conjunction with our law enforcement partners, we will continue our ongoing efforts to pursue individuals who use these offshore schemes to circumvent the law.”

In addition to the term of prison imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Sherri Polster Chappell, Padula was ordered to serve three years of supervised release and to pay a fine of $100,000 and to pay restitution of $728,609 to the IRS and to BoA in the amount of $739,459.90. He was remanded into custody.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg thanked special agents of IRS CI, who conducted the investigation, and Assistant Chiefs Todd Ellinwood and Caryn Finley of the Tax Division, who prosecuted this case. Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Florida for its assistance.

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

Baton Rouge-Based Medicare Fraud Strike Force Announces Charges Against Four More Individuals For Health Care Fraud And Related Offenses

Thursday, July 13, 2017

BATON ROUGE, LA – Acting United States Attorney Corey R. Amundson announced today the unsealing of two federal grand jury indictments charging four individuals with health care fraud and related offenses. The cases were unsealed as part of the 2017 National Health Care Fraud Takedown, during which federal, state, and local law enforcement partners announced charges of more than 400 defendants across 41 different federal judicial districts.

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force is part of the joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid fraud through enhanced cooperation. In December 2009, a Medicare Fraud Strike Force team was deployed in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Strike Force teams bring together the resources of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division—Fraud Section, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and other law enforcement agencies, including, in Baton Rouge, the Louisiana Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Over the past seven years, the team has continued working in Baton Rouge and expanded across southern Louisiana.

Louisiana Spine & Sports

In the first case, a federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging John Eastham CLARK, M.D., age 65, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Charlene Anita SEVERIO, age 54, of Walker, Louisiana, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud. The charges stem from Dr. CLARK and SEVERIO’s role in a $4.4 million fraud scheme in which Dr. CLARK and SEVERIO allegedly submitted false claims to Medicare and private insurance companies on behalf of Louisiana Spine & Sports LLC, a pain management clinic in Baton Rouge co-owned by Dr. CLARK. Namely, according to the indictment, Dr. CLARK, and SEVERIO, his billing supervisor, falsified claims to indicate that certain minor surgical procedures occurred on separate days as patient visits, and then instructed employees to create false records substantiating those claims. The indictment also alleges that the defendants submitted false claims seeking reimbursement for medically unnecessary quantitative urinalysis tests. The indictment charges both defendants with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, and charges Dr. CLARK with an additional two counts of health care fraud. This ongoing investigation is being handled by Dustin Davis, who serves as Assistant Chief of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division—Fraud Section, Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Ptashkin, and Jared Hasten of the Fraud Section.

Express ACA

In the second case, a federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Keaton L. COPELAND, age 32, of Miramar, Florida, and Dorothy V. DELIMA, a/k/a Dorothy V. Copeland, age 45, of Davie, Florida, with a scheme to submit fraudulent health insurance applications to Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana and other private insurers. According to the indictment, the defendants owned and operated Express ACA, LLC, a health insurance brokerage company in Florida, and they devised a scheme to submit fraudulent health insurance applications to various insurers for health insurance plans that would satisfy the Affordable Care Act’s “minimum essential coverage” requirement. Specifically, according to the indictment, the defendants submitted numerous fraudulent applications for so-called “bronze plans,” the premiums for which were fully subsidized by the U.S. Government, without the named applicants’ knowledge, consent, or authorization. The indictment charges both COPELAND and DELIMA with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and five counts of wire fraud, and the indictment also charges COPELAND with additional counts of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. This ongoing investigation is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys J. Brady Casey and Ryan R. Crosswell.

***

Since its inception, the Baton Rouge-based Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged more than 80 defendants with health care fraud and related offenses, achieving a 95% conviction rate and sending nearly 50 of those defendants to federal prison.

Acting U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson stated, “Our medical providers spend countless hours caring for our everyday ailments, improving and extending our lives, and often fighting for us in our most desperate hours. They are rightly viewed as some of the most trusted and respected members of our society. Too often, the few dishonest providers hijack this well-earned respect and trust to line their own pockets through fraud. My office, which has sent nearly 50 healthcare fraud defendants to federal prison since the inception of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, will continue to work tirelessly with our outstanding federal, state, and local partners to root out these bad actors. I greatly appreciate all those who have contributed to this important and successful law enforcement effort.”

“The indictments returned in both of these cases affirm our commitment to protecting the integrity of our nation’s health insurance programs,” said Special Agent-in-Charge C.J. Porter of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Dallas Regional Office. “These investigations are also indicative of our continuing efforts to work closely with our Federal and State law enforcement partners to identify and bring to justice those who deliberately manipulate health insurance systems to fraudulently obtain money from Medicare, Medicaid and other federally funded health care programs.”

Jeffrey S. Sallet, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New Orleans Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, stated, “Countless Americans rely on the Medicare and Medicaid programs for essential health coverage. The New Orleans Division of the FBI, along with its local, state and federal partners, will continue to identify and pursue any individuals or entities who would seek to harm and diminish these programs through fraud.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry stated, “The success of this initiative shows that collaboration between law enforcement agencies at all levels combats crime. Our investigators work around the clock to fight waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicaid. My office and I are committed to doing all we can to save taxpayer money and protect this program for the people in our State that need it the most. I am proud of the results our team achieved during this operation and what we do daily to reduce Medicaid fraud.”

NOTE: An indictment is an accusation by the Grand Jury. The defendants are presumed innocent until and unless adjudicated guilty at trial or through a guilty plea.