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South Florida Pharmacy Owner Pleads Guilty to $23 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

00011_RT8By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A co-owner and operator of three Miami-area pharmacies pleaded guilty on December 6, 2012, for his part in a $23 million health care fraud scheme. The pharmacy owner allegedly admitted in the Florida Southern Federal District Court to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to pay illegal health care kickbacks, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release.

Click here to read the entire press release from the DOJ.

Pharmacy Owner Used Kickbacks and Referrals to Allegedly Scam Medicare and Medicaid.

According to court documents, the pharmacy owner allegedly admitted to paying illegal kickbacks to an unnamed number of co-conspirators in return for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiary information. That information was then used to submit fraudulent claims. A majority of the beneficiaries referred to the owner’s pharmacies reportedly resided at assisted living facilities (ALFs) in Miami.

The court documents state that the pharmacy owner also allegedly paid kickbacks to physicians in exchange for prescription referrals which were also billed to Medicare.

Unused and Partially Used Medicine Part of Scheme.

As part of the scheme, the pharmacy owner allegedly instructed drivers working for his pharmacies to pick up unused medications from ALFs around Miami. The medications were then allegedly placed back into pill bottles. Unused and partially used medications were billed back to Medicare and Medicaid, according to court documents.

Click here to read the court documents on this case.

The pharmacy owner and his co-conspirators allegedly submitted more than $23 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Florida Medicaid programs.

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.

Comments?

What do you think of this case? Is the Miami area just a hotbed for Medicare and Medicaid schemes? Please leave any thoughtful comment below.

Sources:

United States of America v. Jose Carlos Morales. Case Number 12-23374, Preliminary Injunction and Supporting Memorandum of Law. (September 14, 2012). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/USA%20v%20Morales.pdf

Department of Justice. “Pharmacy Owner Pleads Guilty in Miami for Role in $23 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice . (December 6, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/December/12-crm-1461.html

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.

“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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Major Medicare Offender Sentenced to Prison for Multi-Million Dollar Health Care Fraud Scheme

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

The former owner of four mental health facilities in South Florida and North Carolina was sentenced to fourteen (14) years in federal prison on February 25, 2013. The former business owner pleaded guilty to defrauding Medicare out of tens of millions of dollars from 2004 through 2011, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). He had previously been convicted of cocaine trafficking but decided to move to Medicare fraud supposedly because he thought it would be safer. In total the former mental health facility owner was indicted for defrauding the government of nearly $63 million. As part of his plea, he was ordered to repay $28 million.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

Unnecessary Services, Illegal Kickbacks and Fake Mental Health Records.

The scheme, headed by the former business owner, involved three mental health clinics in Miami, Florida, and one in Hendersonville, North Carolina. All four facilities allegedly billed Medicare and Medicaid for services that were unnecessary or otherwise not provided. The clinics also paid bribes to local assisted living facilities (ALFs) in order to provide a steady stream of patients that were in no need of services. Employees of the clinic would then fabricate entire mental health records for the patients in order to bill the government programs. The former mental health facility owner and his employees allegedly thought that creating the medical records would aid them in avoiding detection by federal auditors, according to an article in the Miami Herald.

To read the Miami Herald article, click here.

Co-Conspirators Feeling the “Heat.”

Fifteen (15) of the former business owner’s co-conspirators have been charged for their alleged roles in the health care fraud scheme. Ten (10) defendants have already pleaded guilty, according to the DOJ.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. These departments help make up the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) that works to stop Medicare fraud across the country.

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.

Comments?

What do you think of the former business owner’s sentence? Do you think it is enough to deter other would-be criminals from scamming the government? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Weaver, Jay. “Miami Businessman Who Stole Millions from Medicare Sentenced to 14 Year.” Miami Herald. (February 26, 2013). From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/26/3254507/miami-businessman-who-pleaded.html

Department of Justice. “Owner of Mental Health Facilities Sentenced to 168 Months in Prison in Connection with $63 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice. (February 25, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/February/13-crm-234.html

About the Author: Lance O. Leider 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.

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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Strike Force Busts 89 People, Mostly Health Care Professionals, in Nationwide Crackdown on Medicare Fraud

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

In a nationwide takedown nearly 100 people, including doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, in eight cities were all allegedly charged in separate Medicare fraud schemes. These individual scams involved approximately $223 million in false billing, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Humans Services (DHHS). On May 14, 2013, more than 400 law enforcement officials with the Medicare Fraud Strike Force spread out between Miami, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, Houston, Chicago and Tampa to make the arrests of these 89 people, according to the DOJ.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

Medicare Schemes Could Not Have Happened Without the Help of Health Professionals.

According to an article in Reuters, one out of every four defendants in this crackdown was some type of health professional. Authorities say most of these allegedly complex scams could not have happened without the participation of a doctor signing off on a bogus service, or a nurse filling out false paperwork.

Click here to read the entire article from Reuters.

Florida Health Professionals Involved.

According to the DOJ, in Miami, a total of 25 people, including two nurses and a paramedic, were allegedly part of numerous Medicare scams, totaling about $44 million in false claims. In one case involving a home health agency, defendants allegedly bribed Medicare beneficiaries for their Medicare information, which was used to bill for home health services that were never rendered or not medically necessary. The DOJ believes the lead defendant spent a majority of the money from the scam on luxury cars.

Phony Health Care Clinics Set Up.

In Tampa, nine individuals were charged in a variety of schemes, ranging from pharmacy fraud to health-care related money laundering. According to the DOJ, in one case four individuals allegedly established four health care clinics. The individuals allegedly used these clinics to steal more than $2.5 million from Medicare for surgical procedures that were never performed.

This Marks the Sixth Time the Medicare Fraud Strike Force Has Executed a Nationwide Crackdown.

This crackdown marks the sixth time the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has taken nationwide action against Medicare fraud. To date, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force is credited with making more than 1,500 arrests on charges related to $5 billion in allegedly false Medicare claims since 2007. According to the DOJ, it’s believed Medicare fraud costs the program between $60 billion and $90 billion each year.

Medicare operates under a pay-and-chase system, but according to the Washington Post, authorities are beginning to use new technology that flags suspicious claims before Medicare makes a payment. To read the entire Washington Post article, click here.

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 health care 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.

Comments?

What do you think of these nationwide crackdowns on Medicare fraud? Do you think they work as a deterrent for others committing health care fraud? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Medicare Strike Force Charges 89 Individuals for Approximately $223 Million in False Billing.” Department of Justice. (May 14, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/May/13-crm-553.html

Kennedy, Kelli. “Doctors and Nurses Among Nearly 100 Charged in $223 Million Medicare Fraud Busts in 8 Cities.” Washington Post. (May 14, 2013). From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/health_care/doctors-nurses-among-nearly-100-charged-in-223-million-medicare-fraud-busts-in-8-cities/2013/05/14/fbb0de3a-bcbc-11e2-b537-ab47f0325f7c_story.html

Morgan, David. “U.S. Charges 89 People in $223 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Reuters. (May 14, 2013). From: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/14/usa-healthcare-fraud-idUSL2N0DV3GZ20130514

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.

 

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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

The Affordable Care Act Offers the Government New Tools to Fight Healthcare Fraud

By Catherine T. Hollis, J.D., The Health Law Firm

In 2013, the government reported recovery of a record-breaking $10.7 billion in healthcare fraud in the past three years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The HHS credits the Affordable Care Act’s tough stance on fraud for improving the efforts to fight Medicare fraud.

The increase in fraud recovery is attributed in part to the Act’s proactive approach to preventing fraud. The Act contains several initiatives that address Medicare fraud, resulting in increased fraud-fighting tools available to the government. The joint effort between the HHS, the DOJ and the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team has been a primary driving force in seeking out fraud and securing recoveries. The HHS and DOJ’s website highlights some of the Act’s “powerful steps” toward fighting fraud, waste and abuse. Click here to read more from www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

Tougher Punishment.

The Act increases federal sentencing guidelines for healthcare fraud by twenty percent (20%) to fifty percent (50%) for crimes that involve more than $1 million in losses. The Act also establishes penalties for obstructing a fraud investigation or an audit.

Stricter Screening for Enrollment and Revalidation.

According to the HHS, the new screening procedures include licensure checks and site visits for all providers and suppliers. In addition, the Act imposes higher scrutiny on providers and suppliers who may pose a higher risk of fraud or abuse. High risk providers and suppliers can be subject to unscheduled site visits and fingerprint-based criminal background checks.

The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has started to revalidate the enrollment of all 1.5 million existing Medicare providers and suppliers, using the new screening requirements set forth by the Act. Thousands of enrollments have already been deactivated or revoked as the result of this effort. There is a blog on our website about the devastating and far reaching effects of being excluded from the Medicare program. Click here to read that blog.

New Detection Technology.

CMS is using the Fraud Prevention System to screen all fee-for-service Medicare claims. This system uses advanced predictive technology, similar to that used by credit card companies, to analyze claims prior to payment. It also scans for suspicious billing patterns. Claims identified by the Fraud Prevention System as suspect are reviewed by CMS for possible fraud.

Increased Resources.

The Act provides an additional $350 million over ten years (2011 through 2020) through the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Account.

These steps represent a more proactive approach to Medicare fraud. The government is focusing on preventing fraud before it happens, rather than paying fraudulent claims and seeking reimbursement after the fact. The tools contained in the Act, as implemented by CMS and HHS, further the goal of the Act to reduce fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicare system. To read a summary of the anti-fraud provisions in the Affordable Care Act, click here.

Anti-Fraud Provisions At Work.

On May 14, 2013, the HHS and DOJ announced the arrest of 89 people, including doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, in eight cities. These people are allegedly charged in separate Medicare fraud schemes. According to the DOJ, the scans involve approximately $223 million in false billing. Click here to read a blog on these arrests. To read more blogs on Medicare and Medicaid fraud, visit our website.

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.

Comments?

Do you think the Affordable Care Act will help cut down on healthcare fraud? Why or why not? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Sjoerdsma, Donald. “The Affordable Care Act Bolstered, Didn’t Drive Medicare Anti-Fraud Efforts.” The Medicare Newsgroup. (March 22, 2013). From: http://medicarenewsgroup.com/context/understanding-medicare-blog/understanding-medicare-blog/2013/03/22/the-affordable-care-act-bolstered-didn-t-drive-medicare-anti-fraud-efforts

“The Affordable Care Act and Fighting Fraud.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and U.S. Department of Justice. From: http://www.stopmedicarefraud.gov/aboutfraud/aca-fraud/index.html

 

Health Benefits ABCs. “Summary of Anti-Fraud Provisions in the Affordable Care Act.” U.S. Administration on Aging, Department of Health and Human Services. From: http://www.smpresource.org/Content/NavigationMenu/ConsumerProtection/HealthCareReform/Anti-Fraud_Provisions_in_Health_Care_Reform.docx

“New Tools to Fight Fraud, Strengthen Federal and Private Health Programs, and Protect Consumer and Taxpayer Dollars.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (March 15, 2011). From: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/03/fraud03152011a.html

About the Author: Catherine T. Hollis 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.

 

“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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Health Care Professionals and Providers Beware: The Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) Is Catching Fire

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

In May 2009, the Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) created the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT). HEAT’s mission is to focus its efforts on preventing and deterring fraud and to enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. To date, almost 1,400 individuals have been charged in connection with schemes involving more than $4.8 billion in fraudulent billings in these HEAT takedown operations.

To learn more about HEAT, click here to visit the website.

The Success of the HEAT Team.

According to the website, between 2008 and 2011, HEAT actions led to a seventy-five percent (75%) increase in individuals charged with criminal health care fraud. So far there have been six nationwide HEAT sting operations.

In 2011, HEAT agents led the largest-ever federal health care fraud takedown involving $530 million in fraudulent billing. To read more on this sting, click here.

On May 14, 2013, the DOJ announced that more than 400 law enforcement officials with HEAT spread out between eight cities including Miami and Tampa Bay to arrest 89 people accused of false billing. A majority of these arrests were allegedly of health care professionals. Click here to read a blog with more information on this takedown.

HEAT Captures One of Medicare’s Most-Wanted Fugitives.

On June 1, 2013, a former Los Angeles physical therapy clinic owner, and one of Medicare’s most-wanted fugitives, was arrested by HEAT agents at the Los Angeles International Airport on his return flight. According to a Los Angeles Times article, the clinic owner was an acupuncturist who billed Medicare for $2.1 million in false claims and was paid about $1.2 million. To read more from the Los Angeles Times, click here.

Expanding the Medicare Fraud Strike Force Efforts.

HEAT is a multi-agency team of federal, state and local investigators who combat Medicare fraud through the use of Medicare data analysis techniques and an increased focus on community policing.

The Affordable Care Act has given HEAT additional tools to preserve Medicare by expanding the team’s authority to suspend Medicare payments and reimbursements when fraud is suspected.

To better combat fraud, the government has established HEAT in a number of cities, such as Los Angeles, Miami, Tampa Bay, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Brooklyn, Baton Rouge and Detroit.

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 health care 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.

Comments?

Have you heard of HEAT? Do you think the team’s efforts are curbing Medicare fraud around the country? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Medicare Fraud Strike Force Charges 89 Individuals for Approximately $223 Million in False Billing.” Department of Justice. (May 14, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/May/13-crm-553.html

Terhune, Chad. “One of Medicare’s Most-Wanted Fugitives is Arrested in L.A.” Los Angeles Times. (June 3, 2013). From: http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-medicare-most-wanted-fugitive-arrest-20130603,0,7474342.story

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.

“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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Miami “Rock Doc” Arrested on Medicare Fraud Charges

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

An osteopathic physician in Miami, Florida, dubbed the “Rock Doc,” was arrested on September 30, 2013. He is charged with twelve (12) counts of health care fraud, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The “Rock Doc” is accused of falsely billing the Medicare program for physical therapy procedures, such as massages and electrical stimulation, which were not necessary. If convicted the doctor faces up to ten (10) years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

In 2010, this osteopathic physician was the feature of a Wall Street Journal article called “Confidentiality Cloaks Medicare Abuse.” The article looked into the billing practices of the “Rock Doc” and many other doctors performing physical therapy and reaping the reimbursements from Medicare.

The physician’s nickname, “Rock Doc,” stems from his appearance of spiked, punk-styled hair, along with accessories of chains, bangles and leather bracelets.

Indictment Accuses Doctor of Spending Reimbursements on Himself.

According to the indictment, the “Rock Doc” is accused of falsely and fraudulently representing that his physical therapy treatments and services were medically necessary and had been provided to Medicare beneficiaries between December 2007 and August 2009. The indictment also alleges that he used the Medicare payments on himself or others.

To read the indictment against the osteopathic “Rock Doc” physician, click here.

Medicare regulations require that physical therapists billing under a physician must have completed an accredited physical-therapy education program. However, in the Wall Street Journal article, the “Rock Doc” said that he trained his “office girls” to do the work because hiring a physical therapist was too expensive.

Wall Street Journal Article Highlighted Physician’s High Medicare Reimbursements.

According to the Wall Street Journal article released in 2010, the “Rock Doc” admitted to receiving more than $2.6 million from Medicare between 2007 and 2009. His gross payments were allegedly more than 24 times the Medicare income of the average family doctor.

In 2009, Medicare administrators caught onto the doctor’s billing activity and began scrutinizing his bills. That increased oversight led him to sell his business.

According to the Miami Herald, the doctor was currently working at a hospital in Larkin County, Florida, when he was arrested.

To read the Miami Herald article, click here.

Fraud Charges Must Be Taken Seriously.

We have been consulted by many individuals, both before and after criminal convictions for fraud or related offenses. There are many times audit investigators must make a judgment on whether overcharges are simply an honest mistake or fraud. In many instances, we are convinced that the person is actually not guilty of fraud. However, in many cases those subject to Medicaid or Medicare fraud audits and investigations refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter or they decide not to spend the money required for a top quality attorney to defend them.

If you are accused of Medicare or Medicaid fraud, realize that you are in the fight of your life. You need to sell everything you own, borrow everything you can and hire the absolute best criminal defense attorney available who has experience in defending such cases to represent you.

If you win and are acquitted, at least you still have a professional license and can start over. However, if you lose, you will most probably be in prison for years. You will lose your license. You will be excluded from Medicare. You will be a convicted felon. You will have nothing and will have no way of starting over successfully. Do not delude yourself. This is extremely serious. Be prepared to give up whatever you have if you can avoid a conviction.

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.

Comments?

Do you think that being the subject of the Wall Street Journal article back in 2010, the “Rock Doc” basically alerted the government to his fraudulent billing practices? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Weaver, Jay. “Miami Beach’s ‘Rock Doc’ Busted on Medicare Fraud Charges.” Miami Herald. (September 30, 2013). From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/09/30/3660611/miami-beachs-rock-doc-busted-on.html

Department of Justice. “Miami Physician Indicted in Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice. (September 30, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/fls/PressReleases/130930-01.html

United States of America vs. Christopher Gregory Wayne. Case Number 13-206912. Indictment. (September 30, 2013). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/RockDoc.Indictment.pdf

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.

 

“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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Miami Medical Clinic Owner Pleads Guilty to $20 Million in Medicare Fraud

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

The owner of a Miami-based medical clinic pleaded guilty on January 8, 2014, for her involvement in several health care fraud schemes that allegedly cost the Medicare program around $20 million. The schemes allegedly involved fraudulent billing for home health care services and therapy prescriptions to patients that may not have required them, according to the Associated Press. The owner operated Merfi Corp., a medical clinic that employed physicians, physician assistants and other medical professionals authorized to dispense prescriptions for home health care services.

Click here to read the Associated Press article.

The medical clinic owner faces up to 10 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced in March 2014.

Medicare Fraud Scheme Involved Kickbacks and Brides.

According to an article on Home Health Care News, through Merfi, the owner and her co-conspirators were allegedly given kickbacks and brides for providing fraudulent home health and therapy prescriptions and other medical documentation to owners and operators of other home health agencies and patient recruiters. The fraudulent documents were then used to bill Medicare.

To read the entire article from Home Health Care News, click here.

Case Investigated by Medicare Fraud Strike Task Force.

This case was investigated by the Medicare Fraud Strike Task Force. This task force has charged more than 1,700 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 billion since the agency’s inception in March 2007. To learn more about the Medicare Fraud Strike Force’s anti-fraud efforts, click here to read a previous blog.

What You Need to Know about Medicare and Medicaid Audits.

I previously wrote a two-part blog on the increased number of Medicare and Medicaid audits being initiated against health professionals who treat home health care, assisted living facility (ALF) and skilled nursing facility (SNF) residents. This area of medical practice has been identified as one fraught with fraud and abuse. To learn more on the areas being targeted and how to respond to different types of audits click here for the first blog, and click here for the second.

Physicians, Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants Must Check Out Their Employers.

I have previously written blogs warning licensed health practitioners about illegal health care clinics. Often the individuals involved in fraudulent acts will use an unlicensed health clinic as a vehicle to process false claims. Licensed health professionals should jealously protect their Medicare and Medicaid provider numbers and make sure that they do not allow their name or numbers to be used in false billing activities. Check out any company or corporation that employs you to be sure it is properly licensed, as necessary. To read a previous blog I wrote on unlicensed health clinics, click here.

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.

Comments?

Do you think similar schemes are fairly common? Do you think we will see more news stories like this with the increased anti-fraud efforts of the Medicare Fraud Strike Task Force? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Associated Press. “South Florida Woman Guilty in $20M Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Miami Herald. (January 8, 2014.) From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/08/3858269/fla-woman-guilty-in-20m-medicare.html

Oliva, Jason. “Miami Clinic Owner Pleads Guilty to $20 Million Home Health Fraud.” Home Health Care News. (January 8, 2013). From: http://bit.ly/1h87Xv4

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.

“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 © 1996-2012 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 Pharmacy Owner Admits to $23 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A co-owner and operator of three Miami-area pharmacies pleaded guilty on December 6, 2012, for his part in a $23 million health care fraud scheme. The pharmacy owner allegedly admitted in the Florida Southern Federal District Court to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to pay illegal health care kickbacks, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release.

Click here to read the entire press release from the DOJ.

Pharmacy Owner and Co-Conspirators Used a Network of Beneficiaries to Bill Medicare and Medicaid.

According to court documents, the pharmacy owner allegedly admitted to paying illegal kickbacks to an unnamed number of co-conspirators in return for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiary information. That information was then used to submit fraudulent claims. A majority of the beneficiaries referred to the owner’s pharmacies reportedly resided at assisted living facilities (ALFs) in Miami.

The court documents state that the pharmacy owner also allegedly paid kickbacks to physicians in exchange for prescription referrals which were also billed to Medicare.

Unused and Partially Used Medications Were Also Allegedly Used in Scheme.

As part of the scheme, the pharmacy owner allegedly instructed drivers working for his pharmacies to pick up unused medications from ALFs around Miami. The medications were then allegedly placed back into pill bottles. Unused and partially used medications were billed back to Medicare and Medicaid, according to court documents.

Click here to read the court documents on this case.

The pharmacy owner and his co-conspirators allegedly submitted more than $23 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Florida Medicaid programs.

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.

Comments?

What do you think of this case? Is the Miami area just a hotbed for Medicare and Medicaid schemes? Please leave any thoughtful comment below.

Sources:

United States of America v. Jose Carlos Morales. Case Number 12-23374, Preliminary Injunction and Supporting Memorandum of Law. (September 14, 2012). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/USA%20v%20Morales.pdf

Department of Justice. “Pharmacy Owner Pleads Guilty in Miami for Role in $23 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice . (December 6, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/December/12-crm-1461.html

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.

“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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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