Thank you, Secretary Sebelius. Today, we are announcing charges against 107 defendants in seven Strike Force cities across the country.
From Los Angeles, to Chicago, to Miami, these defendants allegedly submitted over $450 million in fraudulent claims to the Medicare program. This represents the largest Medicare fraud takedown in Department history, as measured by the amount of alleged fraudulent billings.
As charged in the indictments, these fraud schemes were committed by people up and down the chain of healthcare providers – from doctors, nurses, and licensed clinical social workers, to office managers and patient recruiters.
Court papers detail the lengths to which these defendants allegedly went to defraud the Medicare program.
In Baton Rouge, for example, seven defendants are charged with running two community mental health centers, or CMHCs, that submitted $225 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare – the largest CMHC scheme ever alleged.
These defendants allegedly recruited elderly, drug addicted, and mentally ill patients from nursing homes and homeless shelters in order to submit false claims on their behalf. They also allegedly falsified patient notes and attendance records, and forged the signatures of medical professionals – all to make it appear as though their patients were receiving medical services when, in fact, they were not.
And they didn’t stop there.
According to court papers, multiple defendants went so far as to steal incriminating documents from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baton Rouge, while one bragged that he had a “bonfire” with fabricated patient notes.
In Houston, we have charged the owners and operators of four different private ambulance companies with billing Medicare for millions of dollars worth of phony or unnecessary ambulance rides.
And, in Miami, Detroit, and other cities, we have charged dozens of other defendants with equally fraudulent schemes.
Today’s operations mark the fourth in a series of historic Medicare fraud takedowns over the past two years. These indictments remind us that Medicare is an attractive target for criminals. But it should also remind those criminals that they risk prosecution and prison time every time they submit a false claim.
If you don’t believe it, ask Lawrence Duran, the former owner of a mental health care company in Miami, who was sentenced last year to 50 years in prison. Or his two co-owners, each of whom was sentenced to 35 years.
The Medicare Fraud Strike Force is now in nine cities across the country. And, as our record shows, we are achieving great success.
I am honored to lead the Criminal Division as it partners with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, HHS, and our many state and local law enforcement colleagues, to fight Medicare fraud, and to hold Medicare fraudsters accountable.
Thank you. I would now like to turn it over to my colleague, Sean Joyce.