Naval Employee Pleads Guilty to Accepting More Than $250,000 in Cash Bribes From Unauthorized Liquor Buyers

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

An employee of the U.S. Department of the Navy pleaded guilty today to accepting more than $250,000 in cash bribes from three people making unauthorized liquor purchases from the Navy Exchange Service Command where he worked, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Leo Lamont of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s (NCIS) Northeast Field Office.

Eric Jex, 29, of Uniondale, New York, pleaded guilty to one count of bribery before U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert of the Eastern District of New York. Sentencing is set for Feb. 2, 2018.

According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, as a supervisory sales associate at the NEX at Mitchel Field in Garden City, New York, Jex was responsible for preparing and processing retail transactions, and he had direct authority to make decisions concerning large liquor orders and shipments from the NEX’s warehouse. He was also subject to policies limiting access to the NEX’s goods to authorized personnel, such as Navy service members, and requiring NEX employees to check purchasers’ IDs. In connection with his guilty plea, Jex admitted that from approximately November 2015 through December 2016, he agreed with three unauthorized purchasers, one of whom had a New York State Liquor License, to arrange repeated large purchases of liquor from the NEX. He allowed the three unauthorized purchasers access to the NEX’s low prices and frequently provided additional price-matching discounts to which the purchasers were not entitled. In exchange, the three unauthorized purchasers paid cash bribes to Jex, typically $5 to $20 per case of liquor. According to plea documents, these bribes added up to more than $250,000 for the period of the scheme.

The NCIS; U.S. Treasury Department, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau; and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, Criminal Investigations Division investigated this case. Trial Attorneys Luke Cass and Andrew Laing of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section are prosecuting the case with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Chairman of a Macau Real Estate Development Company Convicted on All Counts for Role in Scheme to Bribe United Nations Ambassadors to Build a Multi-Billion Dollar Conference Center

Friday, July 28, 2017

Yesterday, a federal jury convicted the chairman of a real estate development company for his role in a scheme to bribe United Nations ambassadors to obtain support to build a conference center in Macau that would host, among other events, the annual United Nations Global South-South Development Expo.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim of the Southern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Chief Don Fort of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.

After a four week trial, Ng Lap Seng, a/k/a “David Ng,” 69, of Macau, China, was convicted of two counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, one count of paying bribes and gratuities, one count of money laundering and two counts of conspiracy. No sentencing date has been set.

“The defendant’s corrupt activities were all the more egregious and shameful as he tried to hide his bribes as philanthropy,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco. “Corruption is a disease that has a corrosive effect on the rule of law everywhere and harms good people throughout the world. The Department is steadfast in its mission to aggressively investigate and prosecute bribery in all its forms, and vigorously protect the rule of law.”

“In his unbridled pursuit of even greater personal fortune, billionaire Ng Lap Seng corrupted the highest levels of the United Nations,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kim. “Through bribes and no show jobs, Ng turned leaders of the league of nations into his private band of profiteers. Ng’s journey from a Macau real estate mogul to convicted felon should serve as a cautionary tale to all tempted to follow his path. If you bring corruption to New York – whether to the State Capitol in Albany or to the halls of the U.N. General Assembly – your journey may very well end in a Manhattan federal courtroom, with a unanimous jury announcing your guilt.”

“Ng’s bribery scheme began at the intersection where business and intergovernmental matters overlap,” said Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney, Jr. He may have thought this was a good place to start, but it’s doubtful this was the ending he had in mind. This case is nothing more than an example of corruption in its purest form, and we’ve proven once again that no individual or organization is powerful enough to be immune from prosecution.”

“Today’s conviction is a result of untangling a global labyrinth of complex financial transactions used by Seng to facilitate bribes to foreign officials,” said Chief Fort. “IRS-CI has become a trusted leader in pursuit of those who use corruption as their business model to circumvent the law. CI is committed to maintaining fair competition, free of corrupt practices, through a dynamic synthesis of global teamwork and our robust financial investigative talents.”

According to the evidence presented at trial, Ng, the chairman of the Sun Kian Ip Group, conspired with and paid bribes to Francis Lorenzo, a former UN Ambassador from the Dominican Republic, and John W. Ashe, the late former Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the UN and the 68th President of the UN General Assembly (“UNGA”). With the assistance of Jeff C. Yin, an accountant and co-conspirator who worked with Ng and others and previously pleaded guilty, Ng orchestrated a scheme with the principal objective of obtaining the formal support of the UN for a multi-billion dollar facility that Ng hoped to build in Macau using the Sun Kian Ip Group (the “Macau Conference Center”). Ng wanted the Macau Conference Center to serve as a location for meetings, discussions, forums, and other events associated with the UN. In particular, he wanted it to serve as the permanent home of the annual “Global South-South Development Expo,” which is run by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, and is hosted in a different country or city every year.

The trial evidence further showed that Ng bribed Ambassador Ashe and Ambassador Lorenzo (together, the “Ambassadors”) in exchange for their agreement to use their official positions to advance Ng’s interest in obtaining formal UN support for the Macau Conference Center. As the evidence demonstrated at trial, Ng paid the Ambassadors in a variety of forms. For example, Ng appointed Ambassador Lorenzo as the President of South-South News, a New York-based organization — funded by Ng — which described itself as a media platform dedicated to advancing the implementation of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, a set of philanthropic goals. Ng provided bribe payments to Ambassador Lorenzo through South-South News by transmitting payments from Macau to a company in the Dominican Republic affiliated with Ambassador Lorenzo’s brother (the “Dominican Company”). Through South-South News, Ng also made payments to Ambassador Ashe, including to Ambassador Ashe’s wife, who was paid in her capacity as a “consultant” to South-South News, and to an account that Ambassador Ashe had established, purportedly to raise money for his role as President of UNGA. Ng also provided bribes through cash and wire payments to the Ambassadors.

According to the trial evidence, one of the actions that the Ambassadors took in exchange for bribe payments, to advance Ng’s objectives, was to submit an official document to the then-UN Secretary-General in support of the Macau Conference Center (the “UN Document”). The UN Document claimed that there was a need to build the Macau Conference Center to support the UN’s global development goals. Ambassador Ashe, aided by Ambassador Lorenzo, initially submitted the UN Document to the UNGA in or about late February 2012. More than a year later, at Ng’s behest, the Ambassadors revised the UN Document to refer specifically to Ng’s company, the Sun Kian Ip Group, as a partner in the Macau Conference Center project. The UN Document requested that the Secretary-General circulate the UN Document “as a document of the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly,” under a specific item of the official UNGA agenda. The Secretary-General followed this request, thereby making the UN Document an official part of the UNGA record.

Five other defendants have been charged in this matter. Co-conspirators Lorenzo, Yin and Heidi Hong Piao have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Shiwei Yan has pleaded and was sentenced to 20 months in prison. Co-defendant Ashe passed away in 2016 and the charges against him were dismissed.

This case was investigated by the FBI and IRS-CI. Trial Attorney David A. Last of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel C. Richenthal, Janis M. Echenberg and Douglas S. Zolkind of the Southern District of New York are prosecuting the case.

The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.

Ivorian Man Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Conspiring To Provide Material Support To The FARC

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Raymond Donovan, Special Agent in Charge of the Special Operations Division of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced that FAOUZI JABER, a/k/a “Excellence,” pled guilty to conspiring to provide material support to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (the “FARC”), a designated foreign terrorist organization.  JABER pled guilty earlier today in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine H. Parker.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “Faouzi Jaber arranged to traffic millions of dollars’ worth of lethal weapons and narcotics in support of the FARC’s efforts to violently overthrow the government of Colombia and terrorize U.S. forces stationed there.  In a series of meetings that took him around the world, Jaber was willing to do whatever it took to help this foreign terrorist organization achieve its violent and undemocratic goals.  Our Office will continue to prosecute those who conspire to provide material support to the FARC and other dangerous terrorist organizations to the fullest extent of the law.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge Raymond Donovan said:  “DEA’s number one priority is going after individuals and organizations that pose a direct threat to the safety and security of the American people.  Faouzi Jaber demonstrated how willing he was to do business with some of the world’s most deadly terror networks that wish harm on innocent Americans and the rule of the law.  We must continue to attack these potentially deadly networks globally, no matter where they hide.”

According to the allegations contained in the Superseding Indictment, statements made during the plea proceeding, and other documents in the public record:

From the fall of 2012 through early 2014, JABER participated in a conspiracy to provide material support to the FARC, a guerilla group that, as of that time period, was dedicated to the violent overthrow of the democratically elected government of Colombia, had engaged in acts of violence against U.S. citizens and interests in Colombia and elsewhere, and was one of the world’s largest suppliers of cocaine.  JABER engaged in a series of meetings, in locations such as Accra, Ghana, and Warsaw, Poland, with individuals who identified themselves as representatives and associates of the FARC, but who were, in fact, confidential sources (the “CSes”) working for the DEA.  In the course of those meetings, which were recorded, JABER introduced the CSes to two of his associates, a weapons trafficker based in Ukraine and a narcotics trafficker based in West Africa, in furtherance of his efforts to assist the FARC.  Working together with those associates, during the meetings with the CSes, JABER agreed to provide weapons – including surface-to-air missiles, assault rifles, grenade launchers, and grenades – to the FARC, at a total price of over $8 million, with the understanding that those weapons would be used by the FARC against U.S. forces in Colombia.  JABER also agreed to assist the FARC with the transportation and storage of FARC-owned cocaine in West Africa, and with the laundering of cocaine proceeds for the FARC, including by moving the cocaine proceeds through bank accounts in New York.

In April 2014, JABER traveled to Prague, Czech Republic, to meet with certain of the CSes to continue negotiating and arranging the weapons and narcotics-trafficking transactions in support of the FARC.  On April 5, 2014, JABER was arrested in Prague by Czech authorities based on the charges in this case, at the request of U.S. authorities.  JABER was later extradited to the United States to face the charges against him.

* * *

JABER, 61, of the Ivory Coast, pled guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, i.e., the FARC, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge. Sentencing is scheduled for November 8, 2017, at 4:00 p.m. before Chief U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon.

Mr. Kim praised the outstanding efforts of the DEA’s Special Operations Division and DEA’s Vienna, Austria Country Office; DEA’s Warsaw, Poland Country Office; DEA’s Accra, Ghana Country Office; and DEA’s New York Field Division.  Mr. Kim also thanked Czech law enforcement authorities, the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, and the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for their assistance.

This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney George D. Turner is in charge of the prosecution.

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.

Employee Of New Jersey-Based Trucking Company Gets 33 Months In Prison For Stealing More Than $3 Million From Her Employer

Monday, July 24, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. – A former employee of a New Jersey based-trucking company was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for stealing more than $3 million by issuing company checks for her own benefit, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Tracey Perrigan, 55, of Sparta, Tennessee, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan to Count One of an indictment charging her with wire fraud. Judge Sheridan imposed the sentence today in Trenton federal court.

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

Perrigan was an employee of a company identified in the indictment as “Company A,” the corporate parent of several subsidiary trucking, rigging, and transportation companies. Company A was headquartered in Oceanside, New York, and had a Branchburg, New Jersey, facility where Perrigan worked.

Company A used the “Comchek” system, which enables clients to authorize and monitor fuel and repair expenditures by drivers in remote locations. As part of her duties, Perrigan was responsible for authorizing Comcheks drawn on Company A’s bank account. From March 2007 through August 2015, Perrigan diverted $3.25 million from her employer to an entity identified as “Company B,” a trucking and towing company based in Tennessee that she owned with another person. Company B never conducted any business with Company A.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Sheridan sentenced Perrigan to three years of supervised release. Perrigan must also pay restitution of $3,251,419.65.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, with the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason S. Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.

Defense counsel: Carol Gillen Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark

Passaic County Man Admits Defrauding Clifton-Based Trucking Company of $900,000

Monday, July 24, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. – A Passaic County, New Jersey, man today admitted his role in a scheme to defraud a trucking company out of more than $900,000, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Angel D. Vidal, 25, of Paterson, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark federal court to Count 1 of an indictment charging him with wire fraud.

According to documents filed in this and other cases and statements made in court:

Lisa Popewiny, 55, of Clifton, New Jersey, was the payroll clerk at Clifford B. Finkle Jr. Inc., a Clifton-based company that provided transportation and freight services to various public and private entities located in New Jersey, New York, and elsewhere. From June 2012 to April 2015, Popewiny, Vidal, and his two brothers, Angel Gabriel Vidal, 23, and Miguel Vidal, 23, a former truck driver for the company, engaged in a scheme to defraud the company out of $920,380. On June 26, 2017, Angel Gabriel Vidal pleaded guilty before Judge Arleo to Count 2 of an indictment charging him with wire fraud. On March 30, 2017, Miguel Vidal pleaded guilty to an information charging him with wire fraud. Popewiny is scheduled to stand trial on Oct. 2, 2017.

Popewiny allegedly falsified payroll records in order to generate fraudulent paychecks payable to non-existent employees, including the Vidal brothers. All of the Vidal brothers have admitted to allowing the use of their personal identifying information to generate the fraudulent paychecks. The three men then converted the checks, many of which were deposited into their bank accounts and then funneled out of the accounts in cash. Miguel Vidal admitted to recruiting other individuals to provide their personal information so that Popewiny could allegedly falsely add them to the payroll. Over the course of the scheme, Popewiny allegedly input false hours for at least 12 different individuals. The scheme came to light when owners of the company, in an effort to investigate suspected fraud, distributed the payroll checks to employees – a task normally completed by Popewiny. After all of the payroll checks had been distributed, several paychecks remained unclaimed that turned out to be fraudulently issued.

The charge to which Angel D. Vidal and his brothers pleaded guilty carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 17, 2017.

Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick credited criminal investigators in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and postal inspectors from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James V. Buthorn, with the investigation leading to the guilty pleas.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cari Fais of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division.

The charges and allegations against Popewiny are merely accusations, and she is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Three Former Traders for Major Banks Arraigned in Foreign Currency Exchange Antitrust Conspiracy

Monday, July 17, 2017

Three United Kingdom nationals and former traders of major banks voluntarily surrendered to the FBI and were arraigned on a charge arising from their alleged roles in a conspiracy to manipulate the price of U.S. dollars and euros exchanged in the foreign currency exchange (FX) spot market, the Justice Department announced today.

A one-count indictment, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on January 10, 2017, charges Richard Usher (former Head of G11 FX Trading-UK at an affiliate of The Royal Bank of Scotland plc, as well as former Managing Director at an affiliate of JPMorgan Chase & Co.), Rohan Ramchandani (former Managing Director and head of G10 FX spot trading at an affiliate of Citicorp) and Christopher Ashton (former Head of Spot FX at an affiliate of Barclays PLC) with conspiring to fix prices and rig bids for U.S. dollars and euros exchanged in the FX spot market.

The charge in the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by victims if either amount is greater than $1 million.

According to the indictment, from at least December 2007 through at least January 2013, Usher, Ramchandani and Ashton (along with unnamed co-conspirators) conspired to fix prices and rig bids for the euro – U.S. dollar currency pair. Called “the Cartel” or “the Mafia,” this group of traders carried out their conspiracy by participating in telephone calls and near-daily conversations in a private electronic chat room. Their anticompetitive behavior included colluding around the time of certain benchmark rates known as fixes, such as by coordinating their bidding/offering and trading to manipulate the price of the currency pair by the time of the fix or otherwise profit as a result of the fix price. The conspirators also coordinated their trading activities outside of fix times, such as by refraining from entering bids/offers or trading at certain times as a means of stabilizing or controlling price.

The charge in the indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This prosecution is being handled by the Antitrust Division’s New York Office and the FBI’s Washington Field Office. Anyone with information concerning price fixing or other anticompetitive conduct in the FX market should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at (888) 647-3258, visit https://www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations or call the FBI tip line at (415) 553-7400.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces $4.4 Million Settlement Of Civil Lawsuit Against VNS Choice For Improper Collection Of Medicaid Payments

Monday, July 17, 2017

VNS Choice Admits to Collecting Medicaid Payments for Hundreds of Beneficiaries Who It Failed to Timely Disenroll From Its Managed Long-Term Care Plan

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has settled a civil fraud lawsuit against VNS CHOICE, VNS CHOICE COMMUNITY CARE, and VISITING NURSE SERVICE OF NEW YORK (collectively, “VNS”) for improperly collecting monthly Medicaid payments for 365 Medicaid beneficiaries whom VNS Choice failed to timely disenroll from the VNS Choice Managed Long-Term Care Plan (“Choice MLTCP”). Most of the beneficiaries who should have been disenrolled from the Choice MLTCP were no longer receiving health care services from VNS. Under the terms of the settlement approved today by United States District Judge Ronnie Abrams, VNS Choice must pay a total sum of $4,392,150, with $1,756,860 going to the United States and the remaining amount to the State of New York. In the settlement, VNS admits that VNS Choice failed to timely disenroll 365 Choice MLTCP members and, as a result, received Medicaid payments to which it was not entitled.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “VNS Choice failed to timely disenroll individuals from its managed care plan and continued to collect Medicaid payments for their care, even when it provided no medical services to them. This Office is committed to holding accountable those who receive government health care program dollars to which they are not entitled.”

HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert said: “As State Medicaid Programs increasingly have moved to managed care arrangements, we have adapted our investigative tools accordingly. We will continue to work closely with our state and federal law enforcement partners to unravel these schemes, and hold health care providers accountable for the money they receive.”

VNS Choice administers a Managed Long-Term Care Plan for Medicaid beneficiaries pursuant to a contract with the New York State Department of Health (“MLTC Contract”). VNS Choice receives payments for each member enrolled in the Plan (called “capitation payments”) in exchange for arranging and providing certain community-based long-term care services, such as care management, skilled nursing services, physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and preventive services. During the relevant period, VNS Choice received a monthly capitation payment of $3,800 to $4,200 for each Choice MLTC member.

The MLTC Contract sets forth various circumstances under which members must be disenrolled. For example, VNS Choice is required to disenroll Choice MLTCP members when it knows that a member no longer resides in the service area, a member has been absent from the service area for a specified number of consecutive days, a member is hospitalized for 45 consecutive days or longer, a member is no longer eligible to receive Medicaid benefits, or a member is deemed to be no longer eligible for managed long-term care. VNS Choice also must initiate disenrollment upon a member’s voluntary request.

As alleged in the United States’ Complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, VNS Choice failed to timely disenroll 365 Choice MLTCP members as required by the MLTC Contract and regulatory requirements during the period January 1, 2011, through March 31, 2015. In many instances, VNS Choice continued to collect capitation payments for several months after the date the member should have been disenrolled, during which time VNS Choice provided no health care services to the member. Approximately half of the 365 members moved out of VNS Choice’s service area or left the service area for extended periods of time. Other members notified VNS Choice of their desire to disenroll from the Choice MLTCP or repeatedly refused services but were not timely disenrolled. VNS Choice also failed to promptly disenroll members after determining that they no longer met managed long-term care eligibility criteria. Although VNS Choice eventually disenrolled the 365 members, it kept the Medicaid payments it had improperly received for these members while delaying their disenrollment.

As part of the settlement, VNS admits, acknowledges, and accepts responsibility for the following conduct:

  • VNS Choice failed to identify and disenroll 365 Choice MLTCP members in a timely manner and, as a result, received monthly capitation payments to which it was not entitled.
  • With respect to a number of these 365 Choice MLCTP Members, VNS Choice was aware at the time it ultimately disenrolled the members that the members should have been disenrolled earlier, but failed to repay Medicaid for the monthly capitation payments that VNS Choice had improperly received for those members.

In connection with the filing of the lawsuit and settlement, the Government joined a private whistleblower lawsuit that had been filed under seal pursuant to the False Claims Act. The Government previously partially intervened in this whistleblower lawsuit and entered into a settlement with VNS to resolve allegations relating to the use of social adult day care centers to enroll ineligible members in the Choice MLTCP.

* * *

Mr. Kim thanked the Office of the Inspector General for HHS for its assistance. Kim also thanked the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the New York State Attorney General’s Office for its investigative efforts and work on the case.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey K. Powell is in charge of the case.

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.”

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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Largest Health Care Fraud Enforcement Action in Department of Justice History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operates in nine locations nationwide. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged over 3500 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $12.5 billion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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