Unlicensed Detroit Doctor Convicted in $4.69 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The case was investigated by HHS-OIG and the FBI and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Katharine A. Wagner and Special Trial Attorney Katie R. Fink of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Hurford of the Eastern District of Michigan.

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

St. Helena Hospital Agrees To Pay $2.25 Million To Settle False Claims Act Allegations

SAN FRANCISCO – St. Helena Hospital, an acute care hospital within the Adventist Health System, has agreed to pay the United States $2,250,000 to settle allegations that it submitted false claims to Medicare for certain cardiac procedures and related inpatient admissions, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced today.

The settlement resolves allegations that St. Helena Hospital knowingly charged Medicare for medically unnecessary percutaneous coronary interventions during the period Jan. 1, 2008 through July 31, 2011. Percutaneous coronary intervention, commonly referred to as angioplasty, is a procedure to open narrowed or blocked blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. The United States also alleged that St. Helena Hospital unnecessarily admitted angioplasty patients who should have been treated on a less costly, outpatient basis.

This settlement resolves a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by Kacie Carroll, a former employee of St. Helena Hospital, under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private citizens to bring lawsuits on behalf of the United States and obtain a portion of the government’s recovery. Carroll will receive $450,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven J. Saltiel handled the matter on behalf of the U.S. Attorney?s Office, with the assistance of Michael Zehr and Kathy Terry.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Carroll v. Adventist Health Systems, et al., Case No. CV-10-4925 DMR. The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

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

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

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office made the announcement.

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

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

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

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

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

This case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Niall M. O’Donnell of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Careall Companies Agree to Pay $25 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations

CareAll Management LLC and its affiliated entities (collectively “CareAll”) have agreed to pay $25 million, plus interest, to the United States and the state of Tennessee to resolve allegations that CareAll violated the False Claims Act by submitting false and upcoded home healthcare billings to the Medicare and Medicaid programs, the Department of Justice announced today.  CareAll is based in Nashville, Tennessee, and is one of Tennessee’s largest home health providers.

“Home health agencies may only bill Medicare and Medicaid for care that is necessary and covered by the programs,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “This settlement is another example of the department’s commitment to ensuring that home health care dollars – which are so vital to ensure the care of homebound patients – are spent for their intended purposes.”

This settlement resolves allegations that between 2006 and 2013, CareAll overstated the severity of patients’ conditions to increase billings and billed for services that were not medically necessary and rendered to patients who were not homebound.

“This case demonstrates that enforcement of the False Claims Act is a priority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee,” said U.S. Attorney David Rivera for the Middle District of Tennessee.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to protecting the public and vigorously pursuing all those who knowingly submit false claims affecting the Medicare and Medicaid programs.”

This is CareAll’s second settlement of alleged False Claims Act violations within the last two years.  In 2012, CareAll paid nearly $9.38 million for allegedly submitting false cost reports to Medicare.  As part of the settlement announced today, the companies agreed to be bound by the terms of an enhanced and extended corporate integrity agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) in an effort to avoid future fraud and compliance failures.

“Fraudulent home-based services are surging across the country,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of HHS-OIG in Atlanta.  “We will continue to protect both Medicare and taxpayers, and ensure that funds are not siphoned off by companies more concerned with the bottom line than patient care.”

Under the False Claims Act, private citizens, known as relators, can bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.  The relator in this case, Toney Gonzales, will receive more than $3.9 million as his share of the recovery.

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 HHS.  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 $23.1 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $14.8 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, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee, HHS-OIG and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

The case is docketed as United States ex rel. Gonzales v. J.W. Carell Enterprises, Inc., et al., No. 12-0389 (M.D. Tenn.).  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

Dignity Health Agrees to Pay $37 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations

Dignity Health has agreed to pay the United States $37 million to settle allegations that 13 of its hospitals in California, Nevada and Arizona knowingly submitted false claims to Medicare and TRICARE by admitting patients who could have been treated on a less costly, outpatient basis, the Justice Department announced today.  Dignity, formerly known as Catholic Healthcare West, is based in San Francisco and is one of the five largest hospital systems in the nation with 39 hospitals in three states.

“Charging the government for higher cost inpatient services that patients do not need wastes the country’s vital health care dollars,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “This department will continue its work to stop abuses of the nation’s health care resources and to ensure patients receive the most appropriate care.”

The settlement resolves allegations that 13 Dignity Health hospitals knowingly overcharged Medicare and TRICARE, part of the military health care program, for inpatient services for patients who should have been treated on a less costly, outpatient basis.  Because hospitals generally receive significantly higher payments from federal health care programs for inpatient admissions as opposed to outpatient treatment, the admission of numerous patients who do not need inpatient care, as alleged here, can result in substantial financial harm to federal health care programs.

The United States alleged that from 2006 through 2010, 13 Dignity hospitals billed Medicare and TRICARE for inpatient care for certain patients who underwent elective cardiovascular procedures (e.g., stents, pacemakers) in scheduled surgeries when the claims should have been billed as outpatient surgeries.  In addition, the government alleged that from 2000 through 2008, four of the hospitals billed Medicare for beneficiaries undergoing elective kyphoplasty procedures, which are minimally-invasive and performed to treat certain spinal compression fractures that should have been billed as less costly outpatient procedures.  Lastly, the government alleged that from 2006 through 2010, 13 hospitals admitted patients for certain common medical diagnoses where admission as an inpatient was medically unnecessary and appropriate care could have been provided in a less costly outpatient or observation setting.

“This settlement demonstrates this office’s commitment to protecting our federal health care programs,” said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag for the Northern District of California.  “We will continue to aggressively and appropriately pursue False Claims Act allegations of wrongdoing in the health care industry.”

As part of today’s agreement, Dignity entered into a corporate integrity agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) requiring the company to engage in significant compliance efforts over the next five years.  Under the agreement, Dignity is required to retain independent review organizations to review the accuracy of the company’s claims for services furnished to federal health care program beneficiaries.

“Hospitals that attempt to boost profits by admitting patients for expensive and unnecessary inpatient hospital stays will be held accountable,” said Special Agent in Charge Ivan Negroni of HHS-OIG’s San Francisco Office.  “Both patients and taxpayers deserve to have medical decisions made solely on what is best for the patient based on medical necessity.”

This settlement resolves a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by Kathleen Hawkins, a former employee of Dignity, under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private citizens to bring lawsuits on behalf of the United States and obtain a portion of the government’s recovery.  Hawkins will receive approximately $6.25 million.

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 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $14.8 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The settlement was a result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Northern District of California and the Western District of New York and the HHS-OIG.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Hawkins v. Catholic Healthcare West, et al., CV C 09-5604 JCS.  The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

Biomet Companies to Pay Over $6 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations Concerning Bone Growth Stimulators

EBI LLC, doing business as Biomet Spine and Bone Healing Technologies and Biomet Inc. have agreed to pay $6.07 million to resolve allegations that EBI violated the False Claims Act by paying kickbacks to induce use of its bone growth stimulators and billing federal health care programs for refurbished stimulators, the Department of Justice announced today.  EBI is a medical device company located in Parsippany, New Jersey, that sells bone growth stimulators, which are used to repair fractures that are slow to heal.  It is a subsidiary of Biomet, which is based in Warsaw, Indiana.

“Medical device companies must not use improper financial incentives to influence the decision to use their products,” said Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General August Flentje of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “This settlement demonstrates the department’s commitment to protect patients, and the taxpayers who fund their care, by ensuring that medical decisions are based on the patients’ medical needs rather than the financial interests of others.”

The United States alleged that, from 2001 to 2008, EBI paid staff at doctors’ offices to influence doctors to order its bone growth stimulators.  These payments were allegedly provided pursuant to personal service agreements with staff members. The United States concluded that these payments violated the Anti-Kickback Act and resulted in false billings to various federal health care programs, including Medicare.  The settlement also resolves EBI’s disclosure that it received federal reimbursements for bone growth stimulators that had been refurbished.

“This settlement demonstrates our resolve in ensuring that patients receive, and the government pays for, health care that is based on sound medical judgment, and not compromised by kickbacks,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz of the District of Massachusetts.

“Kickbacks taint medical decision-making, cause overutilization of services, and lead to increased taxpayer and patient costs,” said Special Agent in Charge Phillip Coyne of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  “These improper inducements have no place in government health programs relied on by millions of Americans.”

The settlement resolves in part an allegation filed in a lawsuit by Yu Yue, a former product manager for EBI, in federal court in New Jersey.  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.  Yu’s share has not yet been determined.

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 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $14.8 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 Commercial Litigation Branch of the Civil Division; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts; HHS-OIG; the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations.

Ms. Yu’s case is captioned United States ex rel. Yu v. Biomet, Inc., Civil Action No. 09-1731 (D.N.J.).  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

Detroit-Area Operator of Adult Day Care Center, Two Home Health Care Company Owners Convicted in $29 Million Medicare Fraud Conspiracy

A federal jury in Detroit late yesterday convicted the operator of an adult day care center and two individuals who owned and operated a network of home health care companies for their participation in a $29 million Medicare fraud scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Office of Investigations Detroit Office and Special Agent in Charge Jarod Koopman of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Detroit Field Office made the announcement.

According to evidence presented at trial, Felicar Williams, 51, of Dearborn, Michigan, operated Haven Adult Day Care Center LLC (Haven), which purported to provide adult day care services for patients suffering from mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and dementia.  At Williams’s direction, Haven billed Medicare for sophisticated mental health services purportedly provided by other, unlicensed staff members.

Evidence at trial also established that Abdul Malik Al-Jumail, 54, and his daughter, Jamella Al-Jumail, 25, both of Brownstown, Michigan, owned and operated a series of fraudulent home health care companies, including ABC Home Care Inc., Associates in Home Care Inc., Accessible Home Care Inc., Swift Home Care LLC, and Be Well Home Care LLC.  The companies billed Medicare for home health services that were not needed or not provided.  At the instruction of both Abdul Malik Al-Jumail and Jamella Al-Jumail, employees of the home health companies fabricated patient medical records to make it appear that the services were needed and provided.

According to evidence presented at trial, Abdul Malik Al-Jumail paid kickbacks to Williams to obtain billing information about patients at Haven.  He then used the information to bill Medicare for home health care services that were never provided.

In addition, the evidence at trial showed that, on May 2, 2012, the day her father was arrested, Jamella Al-Jumail instructed an employee to retrieve falsified patient medical records from the company.  Later that day, Jamella Al-Jumail and others helped burn the false records.

Haven and the various home health care companies billed Medicare for more than $29 million in the course of the conspiracy.

The defendants were charged in a superseding indictment on May 1, 2014.  After the 12-week jury trial, Williams was found guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks in relation to the sale of Medicare billing information to Abdul Malik Al-Jumail.

Abdul Malik Al-Jumail and Jamella Al-Jumail were each found guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.  Abdul Malik Al-Jumail was also found guilty of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks.  Jamella Al-Jumail was also found guilty of destroying documents in connection with a federal investigation.

Carey Vigor, 61, a psychiatrist from Algonac, Michigan, was also charged in the indictment and was acquitted by the jury.

Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.  Two other individuals charged in the indictment, Mohammed Sadiq and Philandis Thomas, are scheduled for trial in October 2014.  One individual remains a fugitive.

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 HHS-OIG, FBI and IRS-CI and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Patrick Hurford, Chris Cestaro and Brooke Harper 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 and 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.

Office Worker Pleads Guilty in Miami for Role in $7 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

An office worker pleaded guilty today in connection with a health care fraud scheme involving Anna Nursing Services Corp. (Anna Nursing), a defunct home health care company.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office, and Acting Special Agent in Charge Brian Martens of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami office made the announcement.
Lizette Garcia, 37, of Miami, Florida, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard in the Southern District of Florida to one count of payment of health care kickbacks.    Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 27, 2014.
Garcia was an office worker at Anna Nursing, a Miami home health care agency that purported to provide home health and therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries.    According to court documents, Anna Nursing was operated for the purpose of billing the Medicare Program for, among other things, expensive physical therapy and home health care services that were medically unnecessary and/or were not provided.
On behalf of the owners and operators of Anna Nursing, Garcia paid kickbacks and bribes to patient recruiters in return for the recruiters providing patients to Anna Nursing for home health care and therapy services that were medically unnecessary and/or were not provided.    Anna Nursing then billed the Medicare program on behalf of the recruited patients, which Garcia knew was in violation of federal criminal laws.
From approximately October 2010 through approximately April 2013, Anna Nursing was paid by Medicare approximately $7 million for fraudulent claims for home health care services that were medically unnecessary and/or were not provided.
The case was investigated by the FBI and 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 Southern District of Florida.    This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys A. Brendan Stewart and Anne McNamara 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, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, has removed over 17,000 providers from the Medicare program since 2011.

Owner and Recruiter for Louisiana and Texas Mental Health Clinics Convicted as Part of $258 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

An owner and operator of community mental health centers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as well as a patient recruiter for a related facility in Houston, Texas, were convicted on Wednesday, May 21, 2014, for their roles in a $258 million Medicare fraud scheme involving three facilities that filed fraudulent claims for psychiatric services that were unnecessary or never actually provided.
Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. O’Neil of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Walt Green for the Middle District of Louisiana, Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Anderson for the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Mike Fields for the Dallas Region of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General and Louisiana State Attorney General James Buddy Caldwell made the announcement.
“These convictions resulted from a massive fraud involving thousands of false billings for mental health services that were either not needed or not given,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General O’Neil.  “It was a sophisticated scheme involving kickbacks, falsified medical records and false billings.  We will use all tools at our disposal – from data to traditional law enforcement techniques – to root out these schemes and bring the appropriate people to justice.”
“These significant convictions are the latest example of our ongoing commitment to rooting out health care fraud throughout our community,” said U.S. Attorney Green.    “We will use all of the tools and resources at our disposal to prosecute those who submit false information and false claims to Medicare – especially where, as in this case, those claims cost the United States tens of millions of dollars and were filed using the names and identities of Medicare beneficiaries who are particularly vulnerable.    I appreciate the tremendous assistance we received in this case, and in our other anti-health care fraud efforts, from the Department’s Criminal Division and our federal and state law enforcement partners.”
“The success of this broad sweeping, complex healthcare fraud investigation could not have been possible without the tremendous collaboration between all agencies involved,” said Special Agent in Charge Anderson.    “It clearly demonstrates how law enforcement can make such a significant community impact as a result of such strong partnerships.”
“Whenever Medicare providers are motivated by greed, our most vulnerable citizens, the elderly, are put at risk,” said Special Agent in Charge Fields.  “Our HHS-OIG agents will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to investigate providers who will stop at nothing to loot the Medicare Trust Fund.”
Roslyn F. Dogan, 53, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and James R. Hunter, 49, of Houston, Texas, were found guilty after a six-day jury trial before Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson of the Middle District of Louisiana.    Dogan was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and two counts of health care fraud.    Hunter was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks.
The investigation into these three community mental health centers – Shifa Community Mental Health Center of Baton Rouge (Shifa Baton Rouge), Serenity Center of Baton Rouge (Serenity Center), and Shifa Community Mental Health Center of Texas (Shifa Texas) – has resulted in the convictions of 17 individuals employed by the facilities, including therapists, marketers, administrators, owners and the medical director.    The investigation is ongoing.
According to court documents, the companies billed Medicare more than $258 million over a period of seven years for partial hospitalization program services for the mentally ill that were unnecessary or never provided.
Further according to court documents, Dogan was part owner of Serenity Center as well as the marketer for Serenity Center and Shifa Baton Rouge.  As part of the scheme, Dogan would arrange for Medicare-eligible patients to be sent to Shifa Baton Rouge and Serenity Center and admitted to those facilities, regardless of whether the patients needed partial hospitalization program services.  In order to increase billings to Medicare, Dogan, along with others in management, instructed administrators and therapists to falsify patient treatment records for services that had not been provided.  Dogan also concealed the fraud at Shifa Baton Rouge and Serenity Center by directing that patient billing statements be intercepted from patients’ mail in order to prevent the patients from seeing the services that had been billed in their names, and by stealing incriminating documents seized pursuant to a search warrant from federal custody.
According to court documents, Hunter, a resident of Houston, was paid $1,500 per week in cash to direct patients to attend the partial hospitalization program at Shifa Texas.  Hunter, in turn, paid each patient $75 per week to attend the program.  In an effort to get patients admitted to Shifa Texas, Hunter instructed patients as to the types of symptoms and diagnoses to describe to physicians in order to be admitted to the program.
The individuals who have pleaded guilty in this case include:

  •          Dr. Zahid Imran  – Imran, a Baton Rouge area psychiatrist, served as Shifa’s medical director and co-owner of Serenity Center and Shifa Texas.  As part of the scheme, Imran would admit mentally ill patients to the facilities, some of whom were inappropriate for partial hospitalization.  Imran would then re-certify these patients’ appropriateness for the program, in an effort to continue to bill Medicare for services.  In order to support their fraudulent Medicare billing, Imran and others would falsify patient treatment records to reflect services on dates where no such services were provided.

 

  •          Hoor Naz Jafri – Jafri was an owner of all three facilities in Baton Rouge and Houston and a marketer for Shifa Baton Rouge and Serenity Center.  Jafri was also part owner of two affiliated residential facilities; patients who lived at these apartments were required to attend the programs at Shifa Baton Rouge and Serenity Center, regardless of whether these patients actually needed or desired the services.  As a marketer for Shifa Baton Rouge and Serenity Center, Jafri caused patients to be admitted to the facilities who were inappropriate for the services.  As management at all three facilities, Jafri directed administrators and therapists at these facilities to falsify records for treatment that patients did not in fact receive.

 

  •          Sedra Signater and Arthur Smith – Signater and Smith were the administrators of Shifa and Serenity Center, respectively.  At the direction of management, Signater and Smith fabricated and instructed other therapists at the facilities to fabricate patient treatment records to indicate therapy had been provided to patients, when in fact, no such therapy had been provided.  These fabricated records formed the basis of the fraudulent billings to Medicare.

 

  •          Erica Williams and Kyeiana Murray – Williams and Murray were office managers of Shifa Texas and Shifa Baton Rouge, respectively.  Williams also served as the admissions coordinator of Shifa Texas.  As the office managers at these facilities, Murray and Williams facilitated and coordinated the collection of the falsified patient treatment records and submitted these records for billing to Medicare.  Williams also directed therapists at Shifa Texas to falsify patient treatment records and coordinated the payment of kickbacks to patient recruiter James Hunter in Houston.

 

  •          Robert Booker, Teryl Vincent, Todd Ulmer, June Durio, Nancy Reed, Jason Myer, Anna Ngang and Patrick Wallace – Booker, Vincent, Ulmer, Durio, Reed and Myer, therapists at Shifa Baton Rouge and Serenity Center, and Anna Ngang and Patrick Wallace, therapists at Shifa Texas, were directed by Signater, Smith, and Williams to falsify patient treatment records for group therapy sessions they had not conducted.

The case was investigated by HHS-OIG, the FBI, and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Louisiana State Attorney General’s Office, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Abigail Taylor and Dustin Davis of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Shubhra Shivpuri of the Middle District of Louisiana.
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 almost $6 billion.  In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with 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 .

Government Settles False Claims Act Allegations Against Florida-Based Baptist Health System for $2.5 Million

Baptist Health System Inc. (Baptist Health), the parent company for a network of affiliated hospitals and medical providers in the Jacksonville, Florida, area, has agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle allegations that its subsidiaries violated the False Claims Act by submitting claims to federal health care programs for medically unnecessary services and drugs, the Department of Justice announced today.  The alleged misconduct involved Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

“Providers that bill for unnecessary services and drugs contribute to the soaring cost of health care,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart F. Delery.  “Providers must deal fairly and honestly with federal health care programs, and the Justice Department will investigate aggressively and hold accountable those who do not.”

This settlement resolves allegations that, from September 2009 to October 2011, two neurologists in the Baptist Health network misdiagnosed patients with various neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, which caused Baptist Health to bill for medically unnecessary services.  Although Baptist Health placed one of the physicians at issue on administrative leave in October 2011, it did not disclose any misdiagnoses to the government until September 2012.

“This settlement sends a clear message that health care fraud will not be tolerated in our district, particularly when there is the potential for harm to patients,” said U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III for the Middle District of Florida.

The improper conduct at issue in this case included Medicaid patients.  Medicaid is funded jointly by the states and the federal government.  The state of Florida, which paid for some of the Medicaid claims at issue, will receive $19,024 of the settlement amount.

Health care providers will not be permitted to provide patients unnecessary medical services and drugs and then pocket the improper payments they receive as a result,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Brian Martens, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.  “Our agency is dedicated to investigating health care fraud schemes that divert scarce taxpayer funds meant to provide for legitimate patient care.” 

The government’s investigation was initiated by a qui tam,or whistleblower, lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act by Verchetta Wells, a former Baptist Health employee.  The act allows private citizens to file suit for false claims on behalf of the government and to share in the government’s recovery.  Wells will receive $424,155. 

“These health care providers did not only violate the laws of the United States – they violated the trust placed in them by their patients,” said Inspector General of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Patrick E. McFarland.  “Federal employees deserve health care providers, including hospitals, that meet the highest standards of ethical and professional behavior.  Today’s settlement reminds all providers that they must observe those standards and reflects the commitment of federal law enforcement organizations to pursue improper and illegal conduct that may put the health and well-being of their patients at risk.” 

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 Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.  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 $19.1 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $13.6 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs. 

This settlement is the result of a coordinated effort among the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Defense Health Agency Program Integrity Office and the Office of Personnel Management Office of Inspector General. 

The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.  The lawsuit against Baptist Health was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida and is captioned United States ex rel. Wells v. Baptist Health System Inc. et al.