A recent surprising announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services, discussed a recent takedown by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force of nearly 91 defendants including doctors, nurses and other medical professionals for participating in Medicare fraud schemes involving $295 million in false billing.
As part of a coordinated action, 70 individuals were charged by Strike Force prosecutors in indictments in six cities alleging a variety of Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $263.6 million in false billings. As part of takedown operations, 18 additional defendants were charged in Detroit and one defendant was charged in Miami in cases unsealed on Sept. 1, 2011, for their alleged roles in Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $29.4 million in fraudulent claims. This coordinated takedown involved the highest amount of false Medicare billings in a single takedown in Strike Force history.
The joint Department of Justice-HHS Medicare Fraud Strike Force is a multi-agency team of federal, state and local investigators designed to combat Medicare fraud through the use of Medicare data analysis techniques and an increased focus on community policing. Over the course of the sweep, approximately 400 law enforcement agents from the FBI, HHS-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), multiple Medicaid Fraud Control Units, and other state and local law enforcement agencies participated in the takedown. In addition to making arrests, agents also executed 18 search warrants in connection with ongoing strike force investigations.
“The defendants charged in this takedown are accused of stealing precious taxpayer resources and defrauding Medicare – jeopardizing the integrity of our health care system and our nation’s most critical health care program for personal gain,” said Attorney General Holder. “Our highly coordinated, nationwide Strike Force operations are working aggressively to combat Medicare fraud and our anti-health care fraud efforts have never been more innovative, collaborative, aggressive – or effective. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and partners across government to fight against health care fraud.”
“Today’s arrests are a powerful warning to those who would try to defraud taxpayers and Medicare beneficiaries,” said HHS Secretary Sebelius. “These arrests illustrate close cooperation between the Medicare program that identified these fraudsters and the law enforcement officials who acted swiftly to cut them off. And our efforts to stop criminals don’t end here because the Affordable Care Act gives us new tools to prevent Medicare fraud before it is committed – better protecting seniors and the integrity of the Medicare program for generations to come.”
The defendants charged are accused of various health care fraud-related crimes, including conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program, health care 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 such as home health care, physical and occupational therapy, mental health services, psychotherapy and durable medical equipment (DME).
According to court documents, the defendants allegedly participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare for treatments that were medically unnecessary and oftentimes never provided. In many cases, indictments and complaints allege that patient recruiters, Medicare beneficiaries and other co-conspirators were paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers, so that the providers could submit fraudulent billing to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary or never provided. Collectively, the doctors, nurses, medical professionals, health care company owners and others charged in the indictments and complaints are accused of conspiring to submit a total of approximately $295 million in fraudulent billing.
Since their inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,140 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.9 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.
An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.