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Florida Pharmacy Hit With FCA Suit for Illegal Kickback Scheme Targeting Tricare

George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On October 19, 2018, the federal government filed suit against a Florida pharmacy for allegations of illegal kickback schemes involving industry marketers. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida alleges that Oldsmar Pharmacy was involved in illegal schemes that resulted in the federal Tricare program paying more than $21 million in reimbursements for prescriptions and False Claims Act (FCA) violations.

Suit Filed on Behalf of The Defense Health Agency (DHA).

The federal government filed the suit on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense, including its Defense Health Agency (DHA). The DHA administers the Tricare program, which provides health insurance for active duty military personnel, military retirees and their dependents.

The government is seeking treble damages, civil penalties and restitution, based on its claims that the pharmacy submitted claims to Tricare for reimbursement for prescriptions of costly compound medications. The government claims that they knew were fraudulent under the FCA because of the kickbacks paid to marketers.

On October 18, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a press release announcing the involvement of three military members in the scheme as sales representatives for Centurion Compounding, Inc. All three were indicted for paying kickbacks to Tricare beneficiaries to obtain prescriptions for compounded medications. You can learn more about this in the section below.21

Click here to read the DOJ’s press release.

Former Whistleblower Suit.

The lawsuit against Oldsmar Pharmacy and company President, Larry Smith, stems from a whistleblower suit filed in 2015 by Jennifer Silva and Jessica Robertson, former employees, according to the complaint.

The schemes allegedly occurred between September 2014 and February 2015 by Smith and Oldsmar and different pharmacy services administration organizations.

Tricare Reimbursements and Kickback Schemes.

According to the complaint, Centurion Compounding Inc., hired sales representatives as independent contractors who marketed costly compound medications to Tricare beneficiaries. Patients recruited by the sales reps were directed to send their prescriptions to Centurion, which then directed them to Oldsmar pharmacy.

From November 2014 to February 2015, Tricare paid about $18 million for approximately 4,000 claims for compound prescriptions as part of the kickback scheme, according to the federal government. Oldsmar paid Centurion more than $6.1 million in kickbacks, some of which was distributed to the individual sales representatives involved.

Additionally, prosecutors claim that pharmacy President, Larry Smith, entered into a second kickback scheme with several marketing companies. These companies published online advertisements offering free consultations for pain creams via telemedicine, without ever seeing a physician in person. In return, Oldsmar Pharmacy paid a 41 percent kickback to the marketers, the complaint alleges.

Click here to read the complaint in full.

The suit brings forward false or fraudulent claims; recovery of payments made by mistake by Tricare; and unjust enrichment. To learn more, click here to read one of my prior blogs on a similar case.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The Firm also represents both plaintiffs (whistle blowers or relators) and defendants in False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) cases. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Hale. Nathan. “Fla. Pharmacy Hit With False Claims Suit Over Kickbacks.” Law360. (October 19, 2018). Web.

Stringini, Mary. “St. Pete doctor pleads guilty to receiving kickbacks, BMW in $5.3 million pharmacy conspiracy.” ABC Action News. (March 8, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Pharmacy legal representation, False Claims Act defense attorney, FCA legal counsel, Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of violating Anti-Kickback Statute, TRICARE false claims legal defense attorney, TRICARE physician representation, legal representation violating False Claims Act, pharmaceutical fraud lawyer, compounding pharmacy attorney, fraudulent practices of pharmaceutical companies, whistle blower lawyer, FCA violations representation, pharmacy representation, pharmacy defense attorney, pharmacist representation, pharmacist defense lawyer, TRICARE fraud attorney, The Health Law Firm, fraud investigations representation, health care fraud defense lawyer, compounding pharmacy lawyer, prescription reimbursement leagl representation, legal defense of military physicians, legal defense of TRICARE providers, attorney reviews of The Health Law Firm, Veterans Administration (VA) physician defense attorney, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

X-Ray Company Owner Receives 10 Years in Prison For $8M Medicare and Medicaid Fraud Which Lead to the Death of Two Patients

George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On June 15, 2016, A medical diagnostics company owner found guilty of Medicare and Medicaid fraud for billing $8 million for X-rays whose botched analysis by amateurs led to the death of two patients was sentenced in Maryland federal court to 10 years in prison, the U.S. Department of Justice said. The diagnostics company, Alpha Diagnostics, LLC (Alpha), operated in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Alpha’s president and chief executive officer (CEO) Rafael Chikvashvili, was convicted by a jury in February 2016 of two counts of health care fraud resulting in death, nine counts of health care fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy, 11 counts of false statements relating to health care matters and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

I previously wrote a blog covering this case. Click here to read it.

A Mathematician, NOT a Physician.

Chikvashvili, who is a mathematician and not a physician, provided X-rays, ultrasounds and other portable diagnostics in Alpha’s different locations. “The jury found that two patients died because their X-rays were not reviewed by a qualified radiologist. Health care fraud has consequences,” U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said in statements in February and again on Wednesday.

The Consequences of His Actions.

According to prosecutors, Chikvashvili improperly ordered nonphysician employees to interpret X-rays, ultrasounds and cardiology exams, then submitted false claims to the government for reimbursement. Additionally, he ordered workers to make up physicians’ examination reports and improperly copied physicians’ signatures, sometimes even forging them himself, prosecutors said.

Not only did he defraud the government out of thousands of dollars, two patients died as a result of his actions. “The evidence showed that Rafael Chikvashvili failed to provide medical services to patients who needed them, billed for services he did not provide. The jury found that two patients died because their X-rays were not reviewed by a qualified radiologist. Health care fraud has consequences, in money wasted and lives lost.” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement.

The case is U.S. v. Chikvashvili, case number 1:14-cr-00423, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

At The Health Law Firm, we have experience with cases such as this. Click here to read a press release for a previous client we represented in which our attorneys succeeded in having the physician dismissed from a six million dollar suit.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits, Investigations and other Legal Proceedings.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Source:

Salvatore, Cara. “X-Ray Co. Owner Gets 10 Years For $8M Fraud, 2 Deaths.” Law360. (June 15, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawfirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone; (407) 331-6620.
KeyWords: Health care fraud defense lawyer, false claims act defense attorney, submitting false claims to the government, fraudulent reimbursements, health care fraud resulting in death, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutions for healthcare fraud, civil monetary penalties lawyer, Medicare audit defense attorney, Medicare appeal legal, Medicare claims appeals lawyer, Medicare defense attorney, federal administrative complaint defense lawyer, Food & Drug Administration (FDA) audit defense attorney, Medicare appeals lawyer, health care legal counsel, Medicaid audit defense attorney, Medicare investigation defense, health law attorney, Florida health law attorney, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Home Health Care Company Admits to FCA Violations, Agrees to Pay Millions

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On July 7, 2016, a Kentucky-based home health care chain, MD2U Holding Co. (MD2U), agreed to pay up to $21.5 million and admit False Claims Act (FCA) violations. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the deal is in connection with “extreme” billing practices that saw Medicare billed for false and unnecessary treatments.

The Complaint.

According to a complaint filed, MD2U frequently utilized billing codes reserved for the highest level of treatment when delivering primary care services in residential settings. The frequency with which the codes were used by MD2U made the company an “extreme outlier” among Medicare providers, the complaint said. The DOJ also described several other aspects of MD2U’s scheme. For example, it said that MD2U overbilled Medicare by “embellishing and, at times, fabricating the homebound and home-limited status of its patients.” “MD2U’s corporate culture was a one-code-fits-all mentality,” regardless of medical necessity, the DOJ wrote.

Click here to read the complaint in full.

The Deal.

MD2U and its various subsidiaries struck a deal with the DOJ that denies any intentional wrongdoing but also accepts responsibility for the submission of false claims from the time frame of mid-2007 to late 2014. The fraudulent overbilling was “due in part to the actions of a former employee,” according to a consent judgment. Click here to read the consent judgement in full.

MD2U, which also operates in Florida, agreed to dish out $21.5 million through a payment structure. Specifically, MD2U agreed to an up front payment sum of $300,000 and guaranteed payments over the next five years totaling $3 million. Additionally, MD2U also promised to hand over 25 percent to 50 percent of its net income annually through the year 2021. Click here to read the DOJ’s press release.

To learn more about the repercussions of fraudulent overbilling, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits, Investigations and other Legal Proceedings.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Overley, Jeff. “Home Care Co. Inks $21.5M FCA Deal Over ‘Extreme’ Billing.” Law360. (July 7, 2016). Web.

Greer, Carolyn. “MD2U, owners admit violating federal law, agree to pay millions.” Louisville Business Journal. (July 8, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawfirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone; (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Home health care, Health care fraud defense lawyer, False Claims Act (FCA) violations, False Claims Act defense attorney, submitting false claims to the government, fraudulent reimbursements, fraudulent overbilling, unnecessary medical tests and procedures, questionable billing practices, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutions for healthcare fraud, civil monetary penalties lawyer, Medicare audit defense attorney, Medicare appeal legal, Medicare claims appeals lawyer, Medicare defense attorney, federal administrative complaint defense lawyer, home health care legal counsel, Medicare investigation defense, health law attorney, Florida health law attorney, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Appeals Court Rules Against Nursing Home: Bankruptcy Cannot Affect Prevent Cancellation of Medicare or Medicaid Contacts

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On July 11, 2016, a federal appeals court stated that a bankruptcy judge did not have the authority to block government health officials from cutting off Medicare and Medicaid payments to a Florida nursing home that was alleged to have violated patient-care regulations. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) in the dispute with nursing home operator Bayou Shores SNF LLC (Bayou Shores).

The Violations.

In 2014, state inspectors cited a St. Petersburg nursing home operated by Bayou Shores. Contending that the violations posed a threat to patients’ health and safety, federal officials notified Bayou Shores that they were terminating an agreement that included Medicare payments, according to the court’s decision.

Bayou Shores subsequently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and asked the bankruptcy court to prevent the state and federal agencies from ending the Medicare payment agreements. The bankruptcy judge sided with Bayou Shores and blocked the termination of the contracts. This led the government agencies to appeal to the local U.S. District Court.

Bankruptcy Court Did Not Have Jurisdiction.

The U.S. District Court judge ruled that the bankruptcy court did not have jurisdiction over the payment agreements, prompting Bayou Shores to appeal the case to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. After review, the three-judge panel issued a 66-page ruling on Monday July 18, 2016. The decision gave a detailed analysis of federal legislation involving federally funded healthcare programs and bankruptcy law. It and upheld the ruling by the U.S. District judge concluding that the bankruptcy court did not have jurisdiction to make a decision affecting the agreement.

Click here to read the 66 page ruling.

“HHS, not the bankruptcy court, has been charged by Congress with administering the Medicare Act and regulating Medicare providers,” the ruling written by Judge Raymond Clevenger III said. “And though charged with broad jurisdiction to deal with issues related to a debtor’s bankruptcy estate, bankruptcy courts generally lack the institutional competence or technical expertise of HHS to oversee the health and welfare of nursing home patients or to interpret and administer a ‘massive, complex health and safety program such as Medicare.’”

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits, surveys and inspections of nursing homes, and termination of Medicare and Medicad provider agreements, throughout Florida and across the U.S. We also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, assisted living facilities, pharmacies, hospitals, occupation therapists (OTs), physical therapists (PTs), speech therapists (STs), rehabilitation therapists (RTs) and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

 

Sources:

Morning Edition. “Appeals court rules against nursing home in Medicare fight.” Tampa Bay Business Journal. (July 12, 2016). Web.

Brahm, Phil. “Court confirms: Nursing home can’t use bankruptcy to preserve Medicare, Medicaid agreements.” McKnight’s. (July 12, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawfirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone; (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Health care fraud defense lawyer, false claims act defense attorney, submitting false claims to the government, fraudulent reimbursements, unnecessary medical tests and procedures, questionable patient admission practices, nursing home survey attorney, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutions for healthcare fraud, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Medicare and Medicaid termination, OIG exclusion, civil monetary penalties lawyer, Medicare and Medicaid audit defense attorney, Medicare and Medicaid claims appeals lawyer, federal administrative complaint defense lawyer, health care legal counsel, Medicare and Medicaid investigation defense, termination of Medicare and Medicaid provider agreements, health law attorney, Florida health law attorney, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Doctor Indicted In Home Health Medicaid Fraud Suit Hit With 3-Year Prison Sentence

Headshot of attorney George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 7, 2016, Banio Koroma was convicted in a northern Illinois court of falsely certifying elderly patients for in-home care will spend the next three years in prison and be forced to reimburse the government for the $1.5 million in losses he caused, an Illinois federal judge ruled.

Paying For His Crimes.

In June 2016, Banio Koroma, 67, appeared in court in an orange jumpsuit after being jailed for violating his bond when it was discovered that he had again committed fraud by mailing fake checks to strangers. On December 7,2016, he was told he would spend a total of 40 months in prison for the crime that placed him on that bond. The crime committed included cheating Medicaid out of at least $1.5 million during his employment with home health care provider Mobile Doctors USA (Mobile Doctors).

“That sentence would be substantially higher were it not for his age,” U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp said. The judge also ordered restitution of $1.5 million and said that Dr. Koroma would be under three years of supervised probation following his release from prison.
The Fraudulent Scheme.

In 2013, Dr. Koroma was indicted along with Mobile Doctors’ Chief Executive Officer, Dike Ajiri, who pled guilty and was sentenced in May 2016 to 15 months in prison. Dr. Koroma had worked for Mobile Doctors, a company that contracted with physicians to arrange home health care services in Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and elsewhere before its 2013 closure due to the indictment.

According to the government, Dr. Koroma, signed off on documents authorizing the in-home care treatment of elderly patients who were not confined to their homes and could in fact leave their houses to see a doctor.

Prosecutors allege that Dr. Koroma did so without first verifying that the patients were in fact homebound and was motivated purely by greed. A jury convicted him in January 2016 of four counts of Medicare fraud. Click here to read more on his conviction.

To learn more about the repercussions of Medicaid fraud such as this, click here to read one of my prior blogs on a similar case.

Health Care Fraud Should Not Be Taken Lightly.

We have been consulted by many individuals, both before and after criminal charges were brought for fraud or related offenses. In many cases, those subject to Medicare and Medicaid fraud audits and investigations refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter. Some may even decide not to spend the money required for a highly experienced health attorney to defend them.

Click here to read one of my previous blog posts regarding Medicare and Medicaid audits.

The government is serious about combating health care fraud. It created a Medicare Fraud Strike Force in March of 2007, in an effort to further prevent and eliminate fraud and abuse of government health care programs. False claims are a growing problem in the program, costing the government billions of dollars each year. Accordingly, punishments for defrauding the system can be quite severe.

If you are accused of Medicare or Medicaid fraud, realize that you are in a fight for your life. Your liberty, property/possessions and profession are all at stake. Often it is possible to settle allegations of fraud by agreeing to pay civil monetary penalties and fines. If given such an opportunity, the provider should consider whether it is worth the risk of facing decades in prison. Be prepared to give up whatever you need to in order to avoid a conviction and preserve your liberty.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Sources:

Corso, Jessica. “Doctor In Home Health Fraud Hit With 3-Year Sentence.” Law360. (December 9, 2016). Web.

Robeznieks, Andis. “Mobile Doctors CEO, physician arrested in alleged Medicare fraud scheme.” Modern Healthcare. (August 27, 2013). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
Keywords: Medicaid audit defense, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid fraud allegations, legal representation for home health care agencies, health care clinic fraud audit, Medicare and Medicaid fraud defense attorney, Florida health attorney, Florida health lawyer, health care fraud defense lawyer, health care fraud scheme, Medicaid fraud scheme, The Health Law Firm, Medicaid fraud defense lawyer, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid fraud investigation, co-conspirator in Medicaid fraud scheme, restitution for health care fraud offense, Medicaid reimbursement claims, improper Medicaid billing claims, false claims defense attorney, medical director defense attorney, The Health Law Firm reviews, Florida physician defense attorney, Colorado physician defense lawyer, Kentucky doctor defense counsel, Louisiana physician defense legal representation, District of Columbia physician defense attorney, Virginia physician defnse legal counsel, Florida home health agency (HHA) defense attorney, Colorado home health agency (HHA) defense lawyer, Kentucky home health agency (HHA) defense counsel, Louisiana home health agency (HHA) defense legal representation, District of Columbia home health agency (HHA) defense attorney, Virginia home health agency (HHA) defense attorney

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Wisconsin Supermarket Violated FCA With Illegal Kickbacks, Pharmacist Claims

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 20, 2016, a pharmacist and whistle blower told an Illinois federal court that Wisconsin and Chicago-area chain of grocery stores, Roundy’s Supermarket, Inc. (Roundy’s), knew gift cards it was providing Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries were actually illegal kickbacks. In defense of his False Claims Act (FCA) Suit, the whistle blower claims the chain proceeded to hand them out anyway despite knowing they were illegal.

The Whistle Blower and the Alleged Scheme.

The whistle blower in the suit, pharmacist Jefferey Kotwica, alleged the company was involved in illegal kickbacks, thus allegedly defrauding government health care programs, by offering gift cards to pharmacy customers that exceeded legal limits. Roundy’s enacted a Script Saver Program that gave all customers “pharmacy club coupons” for pharmacy purchases. When they reached five of those coupons, they could be redeemed for a $10 gift card, the complaint states. At some stores, the number of coupons necessary for a gift card was lowered to three, Kotwica said.

Roundy’s has mounted a defense to these allegations. Despite that defense, the whistle blower maintains the gift cards were more than the legal nominal value allowed. The whistle blower claimed additionally that the “retailer reward exception” failed because the gift cards were tied to the services the government health care programs reimbursed and were meant to induce customers to transfer prescriptions to the store.

The pharmacist and whistle blower in the case, claimed that he heard corporate executives discussing having Medicare and Medicaid recipients excluded from the program because they were concerned their inclusion was illegal, but never acted on that concern. Therefore, Kotwica said that this shows that Roundy’s had the intent to violate the FCA. The whistle blower also claimed that the company retaliated against him for speaking out to the point where he resigned his position as a pharmacist with it.

The case was originally filed in June 2015. Like all federal False Claims Act (FCA) cases, it remained sealed until ordered unsealed by the court. It was unsealed in July 2016 after the U.S., and the states of Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin declined to intervene in the case. Click here to read the response in this case.

Fighting Government Fraud and Abuse.

This case was brought under the federal False Claims Act (FCA) or federal “whistle blower law.” This law contains standards for both civil and criminal penalties against those filing false claims for services paid for by the government. False Claims Act cases, such as this recent one, are typically filed in a qui tam (or whistle blower) proceeding. This type of action involves a private party filing a lawsuit on behalf of the government against a defendant who allegedly defrauded the government. The “whistle blower” receives a percentage of the money recovered by the government (if any), through any judgment or settlement of the case. Often the amounts awarded to the whistle blower are in the millions of dollars. Whistle blowers are often protected from receiving any potential civil liability or prosecution for their involvement in the matter.

Our firm has been on both sides of both federal and state whistle blower or qui tam cases. We have represented nurses, physicians, pharmacists and other health professionals in bringing such cases. We have also defended physicians, health care providers, medical groups and health facilities in such cases.

We have also represented relators or plaintiffs bringing such actions to recover money on behalf of the government. A qui tam relator can receive up to 30% of the amount recovered on behalf of the government. This means, for example, that of a defendant settles with the government paying back $5 million, the relator or whistle blower can receive up to $1.5 million, plus his attorney’s fees and costs. Usually, the biggest obstacle to bringing any such case is being able to show an actual false claim that was filed.

If you have information concerning health care fraud by overbilling federal health care programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, do not hesitate to take action. The government urges health care providers to step forward and report illegal and fraudulent activities as soon as they are uncovered. The False Claims Act provides a system of rewards that encourages whistle blowers to bring these issues to the government’s attention.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Health Care Fraud and Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, nurses, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in bringing or defending against False Claims Act, whistle blower or qui tam cases. We also defend health care providers in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits and recovery actions. We represent plaintiffs and defendants in complex health care litigation in state or federal courts.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and others who may desire to file a qui tam, False Claims Act or whistle blower suit. We work with physicians, nurses and other professionals to investigate, document and file such cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented number of doctors and other licensed health professionals as relators in bringing qui tam or whistle blower cases. Our attorneys are also available to defend physicians, medical groups and health care providers in qui tam or whistle blower cases.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Kass, Dani. “Wis. Supermarket Should Face FCA Suit, Pharmacist Says.” Law360. (December 20, 2016). Web.

“Wis. Supermarket Should Face FCA Suit, Pharmacist Says.” Make Me Feed. (December 21, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: False Claims Act (FCA) defense attorney, whistle blower defense attorney, qui tam defense attorney, legal representation for FCA claims, legal representation for qui tam cases, legal representation for whistle blower defense cases, Medicare and Medicaid fraud defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid fraud, legal representation for illegal kickback schemes, health care fraud defense lawyer, health care fraud scheme, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid fraud investigation, Florida FCA defense attorney, Colorado FCA defense attorney, Kentucky FCA defense attorney, Louisiana FCA defense attorney, District of Columbia FCA defense attorney, Virginia FCA defense attorney, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, complex health care litigation attorney, legal defense of complex health care business disputes, complex litigation defense counsel

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

3 Sentenced in Florida for $175 Million Drug Compounding Fraud Scheme

11 Indest-2008-8By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On March 24, 2017, three participants were sentenced in Florida federal court, for a scheme that used call centers and kickbacks to generate fake prescriptions for compounding pharmacies. The scheme was able to scam the government and private insurers for $175 million.

U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley, sentenced one of the defendants, Todd Stephens, to ten years. He sentenced Todd Hanson to eight years and one month. He sentenced Christopher Mucha to 30 months in prison. Each defendant also received three years of supervised release (probation) after they are released from prison.

Illegal Enterprise.

Stephens, Hanson and Mucha were among 16 defendants the federal government charged in September 2016. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) described an extensive enterprise that operated from 2013 to 2015. According to the DOJ, the enterprise controlled numerous stops along the supply chain, including the selection of ingredients for compounded drugs, solicitation of patients for unnecessary prescriptions, and funneling of kickbacks to “corrupt physicians.”

To learn more about the defendants being charged, click here.

According to prosecutors, the participants purchased pharmacies that functioned as fronts for the illegal conduct and held licenses that made the operation possible. Specific drugs were chosen and produced by the pharmacies based on the amount of money reimbursed by the military health care program TriCare, as well as other private insurers. More than $175 million was eventually paid out in false claims, prosecutors alleged.

Key Component of the Scheme.

The defendants used call centers as a major part of the scheme to generate bogus prescriptions. The call center staff obtained information on potential patients, including military veterans, who had previously been prescribed medications. They then proceeded to contact the patients to convince them to authorize the faxing of the medically unnecessary prescriptions to doctors’ offices.

A group of “corrupt” physicians would then issue prescriptions for compounded medications for the patients regardless of the absence of medical necessity. It was alleged that this was done in exchange for illegal compensation to the doctors such as cash, gift cards and free consulting. The defendants disguised the illegal payments as reimbursement for “data collection.” These were allegedly distributed through a phony software company called ClinicalCorp LLC, prosecutors said.

To read the sentencing memorandum in full, click here.

To read about a similar health care fraud case involving TRICARE, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacists, Pharmacies, and Other Health Care Providers.

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Hale, Nathan. “3 Sentenced In Fla. For $175M Health Care Fraud Scheme.” Law360. (March 24, 2017). Web.

McMahon, Paula. “Feds charge 16 in massive $175M prescription cream fraud based in South Florida.” Sun-Sentinel. (September 1, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for allegations of violating Anti-Kickback Statute, TRICARE false claims legal defense attorney, TRICARE physician representation, pharmaceutical fraud lawyer, compounding pharmacy attorney, legal representation for military physicians, fraudulent practices of pharmaceutical companies, financial interest in physician referrals, TRICARE fraud attorney, compounding pharmacy lawyer, legal defense of military physicians, legal defense of TRICARE providers, attorney reviews of The Health Law Firm, Veterans Administration (VA) physician defense attorney, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Health care fraud defense attorney, legal representation for health care fraud, legal counsel for allegations of health care fraud, AKS defense attorney, False Claims Act (FCA) defense attorney, legal representation for FCA claims, legal representation for illegal kickback schemes, health care fraud defense lawyer, health care fraud scheme, legal representation for DOJ investigations, DOJ investigation defense attorney

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Woman Lands Herself 6.5 Years in Prison, Owes $45 Million for Medicare Fraud Scheme

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 22, 2017, a Florida woman who was accused of a $45 million Medicare fraud, received a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence, following a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in her case holding that the government could not freeze untainted assets.

Sila Luis received an 80-month prison sentence in addition to being ordered to pay $45 million in restitution.  This came after a 2016 guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Her case continued in 2017 following a 5-3 ruling by the Supreme Court holding that the government could not freeze assets belonging to her that were not tied to the alleged fraud scheme.  This decision has the effect of making it more difficult for law enforcement authorities to swoop in and seize all assets of a suspect, effectively depriving them of the resources to even hire an attorney (which is a common tactic in such cases).

“Innocent” Property Can’t Be Seized.

In the 2016 Supreme Court decision, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, voted to overturn the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the government could freeze Luis’ “innocent” assets as well as the ones directly traceable to the Medicaid fraud funds.  Justice Clarence Thomas concurred in a separate opinion.

“We conclude that the defendant in this case has a Sixth Amendment right to use her own ‘innocent’ property to pay a reasonable fee for the assistance of counsel,” Justice Breyer wrote for the plurality. “On the assumptions made here, the district court’s order prevents Luis from exercising that right.”

Under federal statute, the government is allowed to freeze some assets before trial in criminal cases alleging federal health care or banking violations, according to the ruling. However, the Justices agreed with the defendant that the freeze o f all her assets kept her from paying her attorney.  This by itself will usually force a guilty plea even from someone who may be innocent.

Prior to her guilty plea, she was accused of Medicare fraud and Anti-Kickback Statute violations allegedly through paying patients.  She allegedly paid the patients to use one of her home health companies so that she could bill the government for unnecessary or unprovided services.  To read more on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, click here.

To read the judgement of the case in full, click here.

To read about another case of Medicare fraud in Florida, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

My Observations on this Case.

The power of pretrial seizure of assets is a very heavy handed tactic that I have seen used a number of times by law enforcement authorities, often, in my opinion, completely wrongfully.  In some cases it is used as a hammer to try to bludgeon the suspect to death.  In others it may be motivated by something as simple as a sheriff’s deputy deciding he really liked the defendant’s car and wanted to seize it.  I have seen the bank accounts of minor children sized when all they contained was what the child had worked for at a part time job to help pay for college.  I have seen an annuity fund seized which had been paid for ten years before any of the criminal activity allegedly took place.  I have seen cash taken from a mother (the wife of the alleged suspect) going into the delivery room at a hospital to give birth, when the cash had just been given to her by her mother to pay the hospital bill. I have seen law enforcement hold out in negotiations to return wrongfully seized property because what they really wanted was the suspect’s new Cadillac to use. Pre-trial seizure is an extremely powerful tool that can be easily misused.

So I can understand the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in this case. On a slightly different topic however, I never cease to wonder at the small (relatively speaking) sentences that are given to the largest crooks.  I have seen poor people who could not feed their families sentenced to similar prison terms for merely a few thousand dollars in Medicaid or food stamp fraud.  Yet here someone bilks us, the taxpayers, out of $45 million and only gets only 80 months?  Let’s see.  That’s getting paid $562,500 per month for every month in jail.  Gosh, I bet there are some pretty rich people around who don’t make $562,500 a month. Typically, we find out that these people have their millions stashed overseas in secret foreign bank accounts.  Do several years in prison, get out, and then vanish overseas to Cuba or elsewhere and live like a king (or queen) for the rest of their lives.  The story seems to happen over and over again.

Maybe the key should be to make the sentencing guidelines give one month of prison times for every one hundred thousand dollars stolen.  Then reduce that prison time by one month for every one hundred thousand dollars that is paid back in restitution.  This promotes prompt restitution while ensuring that the convicted defendant does not get out only to flee somewhere to enjoy their stash of hidden funds.  This means, of course, that the Bernie Maddofs never get out (as should be the case), but at least the smaller offenders are nor being punished disproportionately to the larger ones.

Health Care Fraud Should Not Be Taken Lightly.

We have been consulted by many individuals, both before and after criminal convictions for fraud or related offenses.  In many cases, those subject to Medicare fraud audits and investigations refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter.  Some may even decide not to spend the money required for a highly experienced health attorney to defend them.

Click here to read one of my previous blog posts regarding Medicare audits.

The government is serious about combating health care fraud.  It created a Medicare Fraud Strike Force in March of 2007, in an effort to further prevent and eliminate fraud and abuse of government health care programs.  False claims are a growing problem in the program, costing the government billions of dollars each year.  Accordingly, punishments for defrauding the system can be quite severe.

If you have assets seized by state or federal law enforcement authorities, you must act immediately to start the proceedings to have them released or you may forfeit them.  There are often a number of valid defenses to have your property released.  The Health Law Firm represents individuals, spouses and families in obtaining the release of “forfeitures” and seized property and funds.

If you are accused of Medicare or Medicaid fraud, realize that you are in a fight for your life.  Your liberty, property/possessions and profession are all at stake.  Often it is possible to settle allegations of Medicare fraud by agreeing to pay civil monetary penalties and fines.  If given such an opportunity, the Medicare provider should consider whether it is worth the risk of facing decades in prison.  Be prepared to give up whatever you need to in order to avoid a conviction and preserve your liberty.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S.  They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.
For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Sources:

Macagnone, Michael. “Fla. Woman Gets 6.5 Years, Owes $45M For Medicare Fraud.” Law360. (November 22, 2017). Web.

Koenig, Bryan. “High Court Determines ‘Untainted’ Assets Can’t Be Frozen.” Law360. (March 30, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

Keywords: Legal representation for Medicare fraud, legal representation for health care fraud, legal representation for Medicare audits, Medicare audit defense, legal representation for Medicare billing, health care clinic fraud audit, Medicare fraud defense attorney, health care fraud defense lawyer, health care fraud scheme, Medicare fraud scheme, civil forfeiture defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, legal representation for Medicare fraud investigation, civil forfeiture defense lawyer, legal representation for fraudulent billing, legal representation for improper billing, restitution for health care fraud offense, Medicare reimbursement claims, improper Medicare billing claims, false claims defense attorney, legal representation for Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), AKS defense attorney, legal representation for accepting kickbacks, The Health Law firm attorney reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

Wisconsin Supermarket Violated FCA With Illegal Kickbacks, Pharmacist Claims

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 20, 2016, a pharmacist and whistle blower told an Illinois federal court that Wisconsin and Chicago-area chain of grocery stores, Roundy’s Supermarket, Inc. (Roundy’s), knew gift cards it was providing Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries were actually illegal kickbacks. In defense of his False Claims Act (FCA) Suit, the whistle blower claims the chain proceeded to hand them out anyway despite knowing they were illegal.

The Whistle Blower and the Alleged Scheme.

The whistle blower in the suit, pharmacist Jefferey Kotwica, alleged the company was involved in illegal kickbacks, thus allegedly defrauding government health care programs, by offering gift cards to pharmacy customers that exceeded legal limits. Roundy’s enacted a Script Saver Program that gave all customers “pharmacy club coupons” for pharmacy purchases. When they reached five of those coupons, they could be redeemed for a $10 gift card, the complaint states. At some stores, the number of coupons necessary for a gift card was lowered to three, Kotwica said.

Roundy’s has mounted a defense to these allegations. Despite that defense, the whistle blower maintains the gift cards were more than the legal nominal value allowed. The whistle blower claimed additionally that the “retailer reward exception” failed because the gift cards were tied to the services the government health care programs reimbursed and were meant to induce customers to transfer prescriptions to the store.

The pharmacist and whistle blower in the case, claimed that he heard corporate executives discussing having Medicare and Medicaid recipients excluded from the program because they were concerned their inclusion was illegal, but never acted on that concern. Therefore, Kotwica said that this shows that Roundy’s had the intent to violate the FCA. The whistle blower also claimed that the company retaliated against him for speaking out to the point where he resigned his position as a pharmacist with it.

The case was originally filed in June 2015. Like all federal False Claims Act (FCA) cases, it remained sealed until ordered unsealed by the court. It was unsealed in July 2016 after the U.S., and the states of Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin declined to intervene in the case. Click here to read the response in this case.

Fighting Government Fraud and Abuse.

This case was brought under the federal False Claims Act (FCA) or federal “whistle blower law.” This law contains standards for both civil and criminal penalties against those filing false claims for services paid for by the government. False Claims Act cases, such as this recent one, are typically filed in a qui tam (or whistle blower) proceeding. This type of action involves a private party filing a lawsuit on behalf of the government against a defendant who allegedly defrauded the government. The “whistle blower” receives a percentage of the money recovered by the government (if any), through any judgment or settlement of the case. Often the amounts awarded to the whistle blower are in the millions of dollars. Whistle blowers are often protected from receiving any potential civil liability or prosecution for their involvement in the matter.

Our firm has been on both sides of both federal and state whistle blower or qui tam cases. We have represented nurses, physicians, pharmacists and other health professionals in bringing such cases. We have also defended physicians, health care providers, medical groups and health facilities in such cases.

We have also represented relators or plaintiffs bringing such actions to recover money on behalf of the government. A qui tam relator can receive up to 30% of the amount recovered on behalf of the government. This means, for example, that of a defendant settles with the government paying back $5 million, the relator or whistle blower can receive up to $1.5 million, plus his attorney’s fees and costs. Usually, the biggest obstacle to bringing any such case is being able to show an actual false claim that was filed.

If you have information concerning health care fraud by overbilling federal health care programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, do not hesitate to take action. The government urges health care providers to step forward and report illegal and fraudulent activities as soon as they are uncovered. The False Claims Act provides a system of rewards that encourages whistle blowers to bring these issues to the government’s attention.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Health Care Fraud and Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, nurses, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in bringing or defending against False Claims Act, whistle blower or qui tam cases. We also defend health care providers in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits and recovery actions. We represent plaintiffs and defendants in complex health care litigation in state or federal courts.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and others who may desire to file a qui tam, False Claims Act or whistle blower suit. We work with physicians, nurses and other professionals to investigate, document and file such cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented number of doctors and other licensed health professionals as relators in bringing qui tam or whistle blower cases. Our attorneys are also available to defend physicians, medical groups and health care providers in qui tam or whistle blower cases.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Kass, Dani. “Wis. Supermarket Should Face FCA Suit, Pharmacist Says.” Law360. (December 20, 2016). Web.

“Wis. Supermarket Should Face FCA Suit, Pharmacist Says.” Make Me Feed. (December 21, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: False Claims Act (FCA) defense attorney, whistle blower defense attorney, qui tam defense attorney, legal representation for FCA claims, legal representation for qui tam cases, legal representation for whistle blower defense cases, Medicare and Medicaid fraud defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid fraud, legal representation for illegal kickback schemes, health care fraud defense lawyer, health care fraud scheme, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid fraud investigation, Florida FCA defense attorney, Colorado FCA defense attorney, Kentucky FCA defense attorney, Louisiana FCA defense attorney, District of Columbia FCA defense attorney, Virginia FCA defense attorney, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, complex health care litigation attorney, legal defense of complex health care business disputes, complex litigation defense counsel

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Woman Lands Herself 6.5 Years in Prison, Owes $45 Million for Medicare Fraud Scheme

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 22, 2017, a Florida woman who was accused of a $45 million Medicare fraud, received a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence, following a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in her case holding that the government could not freeze untainted assets.

Sila Luis received an 80-month prison sentence in addition to being ordered to pay $45 million in restitution.  This came after a 2016 guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Her case continued in 2017 following a 5-3 ruling by the Supreme Court holding that the government could not freeze assets belonging to her that were not tied to the alleged fraud scheme.  This decision has the effect of making it more difficult for law enforcement authorities to swoop in and seize all assets of a suspect, effectively depriving them of the resources to even hire an attorney (which is a common tactic in such cases).

“Innocent” Property Can’t Be Seized.

In the 2016 Supreme Court decision, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, voted to overturn the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the government could freeze Luis’ “innocent” assets as well as the ones directly traceable to the Medicaid fraud funds.  Justice Clarence Thomas concurred in a separate opinion.

“We conclude that the defendant in this case has a Sixth Amendment right to use her own ‘innocent’ property to pay a reasonable fee for the assistance of counsel,” Justice Breyer wrote for the plurality. “On the assumptions made here, the district court’s order prevents Luis from exercising that right.”

Under federal statute, the government is allowed to freeze some assets before trial in criminal cases alleging federal health care or banking violations, according to the ruling. However, the Justices agreed with the defendant that the freeze o f all her assets kept her from paying her attorney.  This by itself will usually force a guilty plea even from someone who may be innocent.

Prior to her guilty plea, she was accused of Medicare fraud and Anti-Kickback Statute violations allegedly through paying patients.  She allegedly paid the patients to use one of her home health companies so that she could bill the government for unnecessary or unprovided services.  To read more on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, click here.

To read the judgement of the case in full, click here.

To read about another case of Medicare fraud in Florida, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

My Observations on this Case.

The power of pretrial seizure of assets is a very heavy handed tactic that I have seen used a number of times by law enforcement authorities, often, in my opinion, completely wrongfully.  In some cases it is used as a hammer to try to bludgeon the suspect to death.  In others it may be motivated by something as simple as a sheriff’s deputy deciding he really liked the defendant’s car and wanted to seize it.  I have seen the bank accounts of minor children sized when all they contained was what the child had worked for at a part time job to help pay for college.  I have seen an annuity fund seized which had been paid for ten years before any of the criminal activity allegedly took place.  I have seen cash taken from a mother (the wife of the alleged suspect) going into the delivery room at a hospital to give birth, when the cash had just been given to her by her mother to pay the hospital bill. I have seen law enforcement hold out in negotiations to return wrongfully seized property because what they really wanted was the suspect’s new Cadillac to use. Pre-trial seizure is an extremely powerful tool that can be easily misused.

So I can understand the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in this case. On a slightly different topic however, I never cease to wonder at the small (relatively speaking) sentences that are given to the largest crooks.  I have seen poor people who could not feed their families sentenced to similar prison terms for merely a few thousand dollars in Medicaid or food stamp fraud.  Yet here someone bilks us, the taxpayers, out of $45 million and only gets only 80 months?  Let’s see.  That’s getting paid $562,500 per month for every month in jail.  Gosh, I bet there are some pretty rich people around who don’t make $562,500 a month. Typically, we find out that these people have their millions stashed overseas in secret foreign bank accounts.  Do several years in prison, get out, and then vanish overseas to Cuba or elsewhere and live like a king (or queen) for the rest of their lives.  The story seems to happen over and over again.

Maybe the key should be to make the sentencing guidelines give one month of prison times for every one hundred thousand dollars stolen.  Then reduce that prison time by one month for every one hundred thousand dollars that is paid back in restitution.  This promotes prompt restitution while ensuring that the convicted defendant does not get out only to flee somewhere to enjoy their stash of hidden funds.  This means, of course, that the Bernie Maddofs never get out (as should be the case), but at least the smaller offenders are nor being punished disproportionately to the larger ones.

Health Care Fraud Should Not Be Taken Lightly.

We have been consulted by many individuals, both before and after criminal convictions for fraud or related offenses.  In many cases, those subject to Medicare fraud audits and investigations refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter.  Some may even decide not to spend the money required for a highly experienced health attorney to defend them.

Click here to read one of my previous blog posts regarding Medicare audits.

The government is serious about combating health care fraud.  It created a Medicare Fraud Strike Force in March of 2007, in an effort to further prevent and eliminate fraud and abuse of government health care programs.  False claims are a growing problem in the program, costing the government billions of dollars each year.  Accordingly, punishments for defrauding the system can be quite severe.

If you have assets seized by state or federal law enforcement authorities, you must act immediately to start the proceedings to have them released or you may forfeit them.  There are often a number of valid defenses to have your property released.  The Health Law Firm represents individuals, spouses and families in obtaining the release of “forfeitures” and seized property and funds.

If you are accused of Medicare or Medicaid fraud, realize that you are in a fight for your life.  Your liberty, property/possessions and profession are all at stake.  Often it is possible to settle allegations of Medicare fraud by agreeing to pay civil monetary penalties and fines.  If given such an opportunity, the Medicare provider should consider whether it is worth the risk of facing decades in prison.  Be prepared to give up whatever you need to in order to avoid a conviction and preserve your liberty.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S.  They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.
For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Sources:

Macagnone, Michael. “Fla. Woman Gets 6.5 Years, Owes $45M For Medicare Fraud.” Law360. (November 22, 2017). Web.

Koenig, Bryan. “High Court Determines ‘Untainted’ Assets Can’t Be Frozen.” Law360. (March 30, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

Keywords: Legal representation for Medicare fraud, legal representation for health care fraud, legal representation for Medicare audits, Medicare audit defense, legal representation for Medicare billing, health care clinic fraud audit, Medicare fraud defense attorney, health care fraud defense lawyer, health care fraud scheme, Medicare fraud scheme, civil forfeiture defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, legal representation for Medicare fraud investigation, civil forfeiture defense lawyer, legal representation for fraudulent billing, legal representation for improper billing, restitution for health care fraud offense, Medicare reimbursement claims, improper Medicare billing claims, false claims defense attorney, legal representation for Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), AKS defense attorney, legal representation for accepting kickbacks, The Health Law firm attorney reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

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