Medicare Fraud Strike Force Operations Lead to Charges Against 53 Doctors, Health Care Executives and Beneficiaries for More Than $50 Million in Alleged False Billing in Detroit Early Morning Takedown Leads to Arrests in Detroit, Miami and Denver

ericHolder.jpgWASHINGTON (June 24, 2009) – According to a joint press release issued by the Department of Justice Press U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, fifty-three people have been indicted for schemes to submit more than $50 million in false Medicare claims in the continuing operation of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force in Detroit, Attorney General Eric Holder, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and FBI Director Robert Mueller announced today. The Strike Force in Detroit is the third phase of a targeted criminal, civil and administrative effort against individuals and health care companies that fraudulently bill the Medicare program.
While the indictments were returned by a grand jury in Detroit, individuals were arrested in Detroit, Miami and Denver as a result of phase three operations of the Strike Force. The joint DOJ-HHS Medicare Fraud Strike Force is a multi-agency team of federal, state and local investigators designed to combat Medicare fraud through the use of Medicare data analysis techniques and an increased focus on community policing.sebeliusThumbnail.jpg
The Strike Force operations in Detroit are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a renewed effort announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their joint efforts to prevent fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. Last month, Attorney General Holder and Secretary Sebelius announced the expansion of the Strike Force into Detroit and Houston to build upon existing partnerships between the agencies in a heightened effort to reduce fraud and recover taxpayer dollars.
Today, federal agents from the FBI and the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) began executing arrest warrants in Detroit, Miami and Denver as part of a concentrated effort to address fraud in the metro-Detroit area. Charges were unsealed today against 53 individuals who are accused of various Medicare fraud offenses, including conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program, criminal false claims and violations of the anti-kickback statutes. The Strike Force operations in Detroit have identified two primary areas – infusion therapy and physical/occupational therapy providers – in which schemes were allegedly orchestrated to defraud the Medicare program.
According to the indictments, the defendants charged today participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare for treatments that were in fact medically unnecessary and oftentimes, never provided. In many cases, indictments allege that beneficiaries accepted cash kickbacks in return for allowing providers to submit forms saying they had received the unnecessary and not provided treatments. Collectively, the physicians, medical assistants, patients, company owners and executives charged in the indictments are accused of conspiring to submit more than $50 million in false claims to the Medicare program.
The work of the Detroit Strike Force is another important step in the multi-phase enforcement and regulatory HEAT initiative designed to reduce the potential for Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Since its inception in March 2007 with phase one in South Florida and expansion to phase two in Los Angeles in May 2008, the Strike Force has obtained indictments of more than 250 individuals and organizations that collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $600 million. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
Each of the three Detroit Strike Force teams is led by a federal prosecutor supervised by the Justice Department’s Criminal Division’s Fraud Section in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. Each team has four to six agents, with at least one agent from the FBI and HHS-OIG.