Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois, Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert J. Shields Jr. of the FBI’s Chicago Office, and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office made the announcement.
According to the 10-count indictment returned on Oct. 23, 2013, and unsealed today, Rick E. Brown, 56, and two other individuals allegedly participated in a Medicare fraud scheme operating out of a home visiting physician practice, Medicall Physicians Group Ltd., in Schaumburg, Ill., that billed for services that Medicall never provided. Medicare allegedly paid the company approximately $4.7 million for fraudulently reported services from January 2007 to December 2011.
Brown and an alleged co-conspirator, Roger A. Lucero, 62, of Elmhurst, Ill., are charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud. The two men and another defendant, Mary C. Talaga, 53, of Elmwood Park, Ill., are also charged with making false statements relating to health care matters.
According to the indictment, Lucero and Brown owned and operated Medicall, and Talaga submitted the company’s bills to Medicare. The indictment alleges that Brown instructed employees to bill Medicare for patient oversight and other services that were never provided, and Lucero created backdated records in an effort to conceal the fraudulent billings. Talaga is alleged to have billed Medicare for these services even though she knew they had not been documented, a practice that required her to fabricate the information submitted to Medicare.
The charges of health care fraud conspiracy and health care fraud each carry a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charges of false statements relating to health care matters carry a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The investigation is being conducted jointly by the FBI and HHS-OIG and 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 Northern District of Illinois. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney 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 more than 1,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5 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.