Housecalls.jpgDETROIT, MI (March 5, 2014) – Jose Mercado-Francis, 60, a former Detroit-area physician pleaded guilty today in the U.S. District for the Eastern District of Michigan to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud in violation of 1371 for his role in an $11.5 million health care fraud scheme.

Even though Mercado-Francis’ medical license had been revoked and he was not licensed to practice medicine in Michigan, that didn’t stop him. Mercado-Francis admitted in his plea agreement that, from September 2009 and through February 2012, he held himself out to the public as a licensed medical doctor and claimed to provide physician home health services to Medicare beneficiaries.

Court documents allege that Mercado-Francis prepared medical documentation that licensed physicians signed as if they had actually provided services to Medicare beneficiaries, when, in fact, no such services were provided. The phony health services were then submitted to Medicare as if licensed physicians had performed them.

On December 16, 2014, a Houston psychiatrist was arrested on charges related to her alleged participation in a $158 million Medicare fraud scheme involving false claims for mental health treatment.

Sharon Iglehart, 56, of Houston, was charged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas by indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and four counts of health care fraud. According to preliminary calculations, the United States Sentencing Guidelines call for a sentence that is more than twice the maximum penalty of 10 years in prison that can be imposed on each count. Without taking Dr. Iglehart’s role in the conspiracy into consideration, the guidelines call for a sentence in the range of 235-293 months.

According to the indictment, Iglehart is alleged to have participated in a scheme to defraud Medicare that started in 2005 and continued until May 2012. Iglehart is accused of having caused the submission of false and fraudulent claims for partial hospitalization program (PHP) services to Medicare through Houston’s Riverside General Hospital. A PHP is a form of intensive outpatient treatment for severe mental illness.

LOUISVILLE, KY. – How does a doctor get convicted of money laundering, health care fraud and doling out prescription drugs like jelly beans and then sentenced to 230 years in prison with a fine of $10.2 million? By not having a health care fraud attorney willing to ask his client the tough questions, nor one who will give his client the honest truth, or that will dig in for the fight and not accept the maximum sentence and fine for his client. That is what could happen to a Louisville doctor indicted by a federal grand jury earlier this month.

After a year-long investigation by the police, the FBI, and DEA, the grand jury indicted Dr. George Kudmani.

The indictment alleges that the doctor would see more than 35 patients per day. Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that new doctors average eight minutes per patient. Doctors who have been practicing for a number of years would probably need less time per patient. Thirty-five patients per day would be an easy figure to reach.

Also known as the “Stark Law,” physician self-referral is a type of health care fraud that a physician may run into when he or she or a family member has a vested interest in another designated health service (DHS). It prohibits a physician from making referrals to these conflicting entities and violations can result in civil money and other penalties.

The Three Points of the Physician Self-Referral Law

The purpose of this law is to prevent a physician from making referrals based upon self-interest rather than the patent’s best interest. When first introduced in 1989 the law only applied to physician referrals to clinical laboratory services. Over the years, Congress has expanded the restrictions to include more designated health services and applied much of the law to the Medicaid program.

handcuffs-and-calculator-on-headlines-about-white-collar-crime.jpgCHICAGO (August 27) — DIKE AJIRI, 42, of Wilmette, CEO of Mobile Doctors, a Chicago-based business which manages physicians who make house calls in six states, and BANIO KOROMA, 63, of Tinley Park, a physician one of its physicians in Chicago were arrested on Medicare fraud charges. The charges allege a scheme to fraudulently increase (also known as “upcoding”) Medicare bills for in-home patient visits that Mobile Doctors falsely claimed were more extensive and lasted longer than they did. The charges also allege that Mobile Doctors’ physicians falsely certified that patients were confined to their homes, paving the way for home health care agencies to seek Medicare reimbursement for fees for additional services for patients who were not qualified to receive them.
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doc-thumbWASHINGTON, D.C. (August 15) – On August 14, 2013, a Detroit-area physical therapist who was also an owner of a home health agency entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan regarding his role in a $22 million home health care fraud scheme. Bhagat faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for November 12, 2013.

According to information contained in plea documents, Bhagat admitted that over about a year and a half period beginning May 2009, he conspired with others to commit health care fraud through billing Medicare for home health care services that were either not actually rendered or not medically necessary.

Bhagat admitted that his co-conspirators paid kickbacks to patient recruiters to obtain the information of Medicare beneficiaries, which the co-conspirators then used to bill Medicare. Bhagat and his cohorts then created phony therapy files to falsely document physical therapy services were provided to Medicare beneficiaries, when in fact no such services had ever been provided and if provided were not medically necessary in the first place.

sebelius-holder-announcementWASHINGTON, D.C. (May 14,2013) A nation-wide takedown by the Medicare Fraud Strike resulted in charges being filed against 89 health care providers including doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for committing Medicare fraud to the tune of approximately $223 million in false claims billings.

In Miami, a total of 25 people were charged for participating in various fraud schemes to submit false billings for home health care, mental health services, occupational and physical therapy, DME and HIV infusion services. Among those arrested were two nurses, a paramedic and a radiographer were charged with crimes for involving a total of $44 million.

In one case, involving Trust Care Health Services, three people – including Roberto Marrero, a Miami actor and local cable TV station owner, were charged with health care fraud and violations of the anti-kick back statute for their involvement in a $20 million home health fraud scheme concerning the treatment of diabetic patients. Court documents accuse the defendants of bribing Medicare beneficiaries to turn over their Medicare information, which was used to bill for services that were not rendered or were medically unnecessary.

OIG-LogoWASHINGTON (March 26) – The Office of the Inspector General of the Health and Human Services Department has issued a Special Fraud Alert that physician-owned distributorships (PODs) are “inherently suspect” under the anti-kickback statute (AKS) and has listed suspicious characteristics that may increase the risk of fraud and abuse.

The alert focused on physician-owned businesses / PODs that obtain revenue from selling implantable medical devices ordered by their physician owners to use in procedures they perform on their patients at hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers.

“The opportunity for a referring physician to earn a profit, including through an investment in an entity for which he or she generates business, could constitute illegal remuneration under the anti-kickback statute,” said the IG alert .

doc-thumbHOUSTON (March 13) – A Texas doctor who was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and six counts of false statements relating to health care matters was sentenced today to serve 63 months behind bars.

Ben Harris Echols, 63, of Houston, was convicted late last year of conspiring to commit health care fraud by falsifying plans of care for Medicare beneficiaries, including patients whom he did not treat, as part of a $17.3 million Medicare fraud scheme. Upon completion of his prison term, Echols was ordered to serve three years of supervised release and pay restitution in the amount of $2,918,830.

According to evidence presented at trial, Echols signed plans of care for Medicare beneficiaries who were not under his care and about whose conditions he had no knowledge. In many instances, Echols signed plans of care even though other doctors were listed as the attending physician on the documents.

Breuer_Official_Portrait.jpgWashington (Jan. 30) — Assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer, is leaving the Justice Department. Breuer gained notoriety for defending president Bill Clinton against impeachment and for defending four-time Cy Young award winner, Roger Clemens.

“Serving as assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division has been the greatest privilege of my professional life,” Breuer said in a statement. “From my first day on this job nearly four years ago, I have loved it, and I am so proud of what the Criminal Division has accomplished over the past four years,” Breuer said.

The announcement came the day after a federal judge in New Orleans approved the largest package of criminal fines and penalties in U.S. history. In 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder had named Breuer to oversee the Deepwater Horizon Task Force. The record amount of the settlement in the guilty plea will cost BP $4 billion and lets Breuer to depart the Justice Department on a positive note.