Home healthcare once again figured prominently in charges announced yesterday by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as part of a nationwide takedown by Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations. The six-city effort resulted in charges against 90 people for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $260 million in false billings.
“Medicare is a sacred compact with our nation’s seniors, and to protect it, we must remain aggressive in combating fraud,” Holder said. “This nationwide Medicare Strike Force takedown represents another important step forward in our ongoing fight to safeguard taxpayer resources and to ensure the integrity of essential healthcare programs.”
The defendants charged are accused of various healthcare fraud-related crimes, including conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes and money laundering. The charges are based on a variety of alleged fraud schemes involving various medical treatments and services, including home healthcare, mental health services, psychotherapy, physical and occupational therapy, durable medical equipment and pharmacy.
- In Miami, 50 defendants were charged for their alleged participation in various fraud schemes involving approximately $65.5 million in false billings for home healthcare and mental health services as well as pharmacy fraud.
- In Houston, 11 people were charged, including five physicians who were charged with conspiring to bill Medicare for medically unnecessary home health services.
- In Los Angeles, eight defendants were charged for their roles in schemes to defraud Medicare of approximately $32 million. In one case, a doctor was charged for causing almost $24 million in losses to Medicare through his own fraudulent billing and referrals for durable medical equipment, including over 1,000 expensive power wheelchairs, and home health services that were not medically necessary and frequently not provided.
- In Detroit, seven defendants were charged for their roles in fraud schemes involving approximately $30 million in false claims for medically unnecessary services, including home health services, psychotherapy and infusion therapy.
- In Tampa, Florida, seven people were charged in a variety of schemes, ranging from fraudulent physical therapy billings to a scheme involving millions of dollars in physician services and tests that never occurred. In one case, five individuals were charged for their alleged roles in a $12 million health care fraud and money laundering scheme that involved billing Medicare using names of beneficiaries from Miami-Dade County for services purportedly provided in Tampa area clinics, 280 miles away. The defendants then allegedly laundered the proceeds through a number of transactions involving several shell entities.
- In Brooklyn, New York, the Strike Force announced an indictment against Syed Imran Ahmed, MD, in connection with his alleged $85 million scheme involving billings for surgeries that never occurred. The Brooklyn Strike Force also charged six others, including a physician and two billers who allegedly concocted a $14.4 million scheme in which they recruited elderly Medicare beneficiaries and billed Medicare for medically unnecessary vitamin infusions, diagnostic tests and physical and occupational therapy supposedly provided to these patients.
Government officials at the press conference stressed that a complaint or indictment is an accusation and that defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.