Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces $13.4 Million Settlement Of Civil Healthcare Fraud Lawsuit Against US Bioservices Corp.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General for the New York Region (“HHS-OIG”), announced that the United States has settled a civil fraud case against US BIOSERVICES CORP. (“US BIO”) pursuant to which US BIO will pay a total of $13.4 million. The settlement resolves claims that US BIO violated the Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act by participating in a kickback scheme with Novartis PharmaceuticalS Corp. (“Novartis”) relating to the NOVARTIS drug Exjade. Specifically, the United States’ Complaint alleges that US BIO and NOVARTIS entered into a kickback arrangement pursuant to which US BIO was promised additional patient referrals and related benefits in return for refilling a higher percentage of Exjade than the two other pharmacies that also dispensed Exjade. The settlement will also resolve numerous state law civil fraud claims.

Yesterday, Chief U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon approved a settlement stipulation to resolve the Government’s claims against US BIO. Under the settlement, US BIO is required to pay approximately $10.6 million to the United States and has made extensive admissions regarding its conduct. Further, as part of the settlement, US BIO will pay approximately $2.8 million to resolve the state law civil fraud claims. In prior lawsuits, the Government sued NOVARTIS and the two other pharmacies that participated in this same Exjade kickback scheme. The Government settled those lawsuits, pursuant to which NOVARTIS paid $390 million, the two other pharmacies paid $75 million, and NOVARTIS and the pharmacies made extensive admissions regarding their conduct.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “The integrity of the federal healthcare system requires that all providers, including pharmacies like US Bioservices, refrain from entering into kickback relationships. When healthcare providers accept kickbacks, they violate the law, subject what should be health-based decision-making to the influence of profit-seeking drug manufacturers, and thereby put their own financial interests ahead of the interests of their patients. This Office will continue to use its law enforcement tools to pursue healthcare providers who accept kickbacks or otherwise put their profits ahead of patient safety.”

HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert said: “The conduct displayed by US Bioservices compromised patient care and undermined the integrity of our nation’s health care programs. This settlement should serve as a warning to all providers that choose to let financial inducements cloud their medical judgment.”

As alleged in the Government’s Complaint, US BIO participated in a kickback scheme with NOVARTIS that violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act. In connection with this scheme, US BIO submitted claims for thousands of Exjade prescriptions to Medicare and Medicaid, causing those programs to pay out millions of dollars for false claims tainted by kickbacks. As part of the settlement, US BIO admitted as follows:

  • In December 2005, US BIO signed a contract with Novartis relating to the distribution of Exjade. Under that contract, Novartis agreed that US BIO would be one of three specialty pharmacies (the “EPASS pharmacies”) permitted to dispense Exjade as part of Novartis’s EPASS network. US BIO, in turn, agreed to provide specialty pharmacy services to Exjade patients, including having clinical staff available to speak with patients and to answer clinical questions or concerns about Exjade.
  • In or about June 2007, Novartis began issuing monthly “Exjade Scorecards” to US BIO and the other two EPASS pharmacies that measured, among other things, the pharmacies’ “adherence” scores. The “adherence” score in the Exjade Scorecards showed how long Exjade patients continued to order refills, without excluding patients who stopped ordering refills due to side effects or patients who were directed to stop therapy by their physicians. Starting in or about July 2007, Novartis had discussions with US BIO regarding how US BIO could improve its “adherence” scores in the Exjade Scorecards.
  • In late 2007 and early 2008, and to improve its “adherence” score, US BIO trained its nurses to call Exjade patients and tell patients that not treating iron overload, for which Exjade is prescribed, could have severe consequences like organ failure, and that while Exjade had certain common side effects like diarrhea, such side effects typically went away with time. The nurses at US BIO did not use written scripts for the calls with Exjade patients.
  • In October 2008, Novartis implemented a new plan for allocating Exjade patient referrals among US BIO and the other EPASS pharmacies. Under that plan, Novartis would allocate 60% of all undesignated patient referrals to the EPASS pharmacy with the top “adherence” scores in the Exjade Scorecards and allocate 20% of the undesignated patient referrals to each of the other two EPASS pharmacies.

* * *

Mr. Kim thanked HHS-OIG and the Medicaid Fraud Control Units for New York, Washington, and California for their investigative efforts and assistance with this case.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Li Yu and Mónica P. Folch are in charge of the case.

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.

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

Monday, July 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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


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

Hospice Company To Pay $2 Million To Resolve Alleged False Claims Related To Unnecessary Hospice Care

Thursday, July 6, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. – A hospice company in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, has agreed to pay to the United States $2 million to resolve allegations that it provided unnecessary hospice services, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced today.

Compassionate Care of Gwynedd Inc. is a hospice provider based in Bensalem and a subsidiary of Compassionate Care Hospice Group Inc., a Florida corporation with its principal place of business in Parsippany, New Jersey. The settlement announced today follows an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. The allegations arose from a whistle-blower suit filed under the False Claims Act.

The United States alleges that from Jan. 1, 2005, through Nov. 15, 2011, Compassionate Care of Gwynedd admitted patients who did not need hospice care and billed Medicare for these medically unnecessary services. The government alleges that the company admitted these patients by using a diagnosis of “debility” that was not medically justified.

The relators, or whistler-blowers, in the underlying qui tam will receive more than $350,000 as their statutory share of the recovery under the False Claims Act. The civil lawsuit was filed in the District of New Jersey and is captioned United States, et al., ex rel. Jane Doe and Mary Roe v. Compassionate Care Hospice, et al.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents from the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert, with the investigation leading to the settlement.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Graybow of the Health Care and Government Fraud Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and Trial Attorney Justin Draycott of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. The Office of Inspector General and the Office of the General Counsel for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the Department of Health and Human Services also participated in the investigation and settlement.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey reorganized its health care practice in 2010 and created a stand-alone Health Care and Government Fraud Unit to handle both criminal and civil investigations and prosecutions of health care fraud offenses. Since that time, the office has recovered more than $1.36 billion in health care and government fraud settlements, judgments, fines, restitution and forfeiture under the False Claims Act, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and other statutes.

The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only; there have been no admissions of liability.

Counsel for relators: Britton D. Monts Esq., Austin, Texas; Timothy J. McInnis Esq., New York

Counsel for defendant: Sean C. Cenawood Esq., New York

Cardiac Monitoring Companies and Executive Agree to Pay $13.45 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

Monday, June 26, 2017

AMI Monitoring Inc. aka Spectocor, its owner, Joseph Bogdan, Medi-Lynx Cardiac Monitoring LLC, and Medicalgorithmics SA, the current majority owner of Medi-Lynx Cardiac Monitoring LLC, have agreed to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by billing Medicare for higher and more expensive levels of cardiac monitoring services than requested by the ordering physicians, the Department of Justice announced today. Spectocor and Bogdan have agreed to pay $10.56 million, and Medi-Lynx and Medicalgorithmics have agreed to pay $2.89 million.

“Independent diagnostic testing facilities that improperly steer physicians to order higher levels of service will be held accountable,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will vigilantly ensure the appropriate use of our country’s limited Medicare funds.”

From 2011 through 2016, Spectocor, headquartered in McKinney, Texas, and Joseph Bogdan, allegedly marketed the Pocket ECG as capable of performing three separate types of cardiac monitoring services—holter, event, and telemetry. When a physician sought to enroll a patient for Pocket ECG, however, the enrollment process allegedly only allowed the physician to enroll in Pocket ECG for the service which provided the highest rate of reimbursement provided by a patient’s insurance, thus steering the ordering physician to a more costly level of service. In 2013, Medi-Lynx, a related company headquartered in Plano, Texas, began selling the Pocket ECG and allegedly adopted this same enrollment procedure. Medicalgorithmics SA, a limited liability company based in Warsaw, Poland, acquired a controlling interest in Medi-Lynx in September 2016.

“Sophisticated medical technology can be used to help doctors dramatically improve the lives of their patients, but it can also be misused to fraudulently increase medical bills,” said Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick for the District of New Jersey. “Today’s settlement demonstrates that the federal government is committed to preserving the integrity of the Medicare system and ensuring that Medicare funds are spent only for patient care.”

“Billing for unneeded services, as the government alleged, takes unfair advantage of Medicare patients and steals from taxpayers,” said Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “OIG, along with our law enforcement partners, will aggressively investigate these crimes.”

The settlements resolve allegations filed in a lawsuit by Eben Steele, a former sales manager at Spectocor. The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Newark, New Jersey, 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. The Act also allows the government to intervene and take over the action, as it did in this case. Mr. Steele will receive approximately $2.4 million from the two settlements.

The government’s resolution of this matter illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services at 900-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

The settlements were the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and the HHS-OIG.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. John Doe v. Spectocor Enterprise Services, LLC, et al., Case No. 14-1387 (KSH) (D. N.J.). The claims resolved by the settlements are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

Doctor And Son Admit Defrauding Medicare, Agree To $1.78 Million Settlement

 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

CAMDEN, N.J. – A doctor and his chiropractor son today admitted conspiring to defraud Medicare by using unqualified people to give physical therapy to Medicare recipients, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Robert Claude McGrath D.O., 65, and his son Robert Christopher McGrath, 47, both of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden federal court to separate informations charging them each with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

The McGraths, together with their practice, the Atlantic Spine & Joint Institute, have also agreed to pay $1.78 million as part of a civil settlement to resolve allegations that they illegally billed Medicare for those treatments.

“Elderly patients who need physical therapy deserve properly licensed and supervised caregivers,” Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick said. “Instead, the McGraths for years used unqualified and unsupervised employees to treat their patients, all while fraudulently billing Medicare for the phony services.”

“Patients undergoing physical therapy at the McGraths’ practice sought simply to feel and move better,” said Michael Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “It seems all the defendants sought was to enrich themselves at those patients’ – and U.S. taxpayers’ – expense. Medicare fraud deals a big blow to a critical piece of our health care system. Every dollar lost to bogus billing is a dollar less to use for legitimate treatments and services.”

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
The McGraths owned and operated Atlantic Spine & Joint Institute, a medical practice with offices in Westmont, New Jersey, and Wayne, Pennsylvania. Under Medicare rules, physical therapy had to be provided by Robert Claude McGrath or by a trained physical therapist under his supervision. However, from January 2011 through April 2016, the McGraths sought to defraud Medicare by employing unlicensed, untrained persons to give physical therapy to Medicare patients, at times when Robert Claude McGrath was not even in the office to supervise. They then submitted bills to Medicare fraudulently identifying Robert Claude McGrath as the provider of physical therapy.
The defendants each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2017.

“These criminals face serving time in prison as well as paying out a $1.78 million settlement,” said Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Additionally, my agency reserves the right to exclude both father and son from Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health programs.”

“People trust medical professionals to treat them and not cheat them,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark S. McCormack, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations’ Metro Washington Field Office. “Our office will continue to work with our federal law enforcement partners to pursue and bring to justice those who would exploit this vulnerable population.”

In the related civil settlement, also announced today, the McGraths and Atlantic Spine agreed to pay $1.78 million plus interest to the federal government to resolve allegations that the fraudulent bills submitted under the McGraths’ scheme caused false claims to be submitted to Medicare in violation of the False Claims Act.
The civil settlement resolves certain claims filed by Linda Stevens, a former billing manager at Atlantic Spine, in the District of New Jersey, under the federal False Claims Act. The federal False Claims Act contains a qui tam, or whistleblower, provision that permits whistleblowers to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims against the government, and to share in any recovery. Ms. Stevens will receive approximately $338,200 from the settlement proceeds, along with her attorney’s fees.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited agents of the FBI’s South Jersey Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Harpster in Philadelphia, special agents from the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Lampert, and special agents from the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge McCormack, with the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys R. David Walk Jr. and Andrew A. Caffrey III of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit represented the government in the criminal case and the civil case, respectively.

The New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office reorganized its health care practice in 2010 and created a stand-along Health Care and Government Fraud Unit to handle both criminal and civil investigations and prosecutions of health care fraud offenses. Since that time, the office has recovered more than $1.33 billion in health care and government fraud settlements, judgments, fines, restitution and forfeiture under the False Claims Act, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and other statutes.

Defense counsel:
Robert Christopher McGrath and Atlantic Spine & Joint Institute: Riza I. Dagli Esq., Roseland, New Jersey.
Robert Claude McGrath: Perry Primavera Esq., Hackensack, New Jersey
Counsel for Relator Linda Stevens: Brian J. McCormick Jr., Philadelphia