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Friday, June 11, 2010
Physical Therapist Sentenced to 57 Months in Prison in Connection with Detroit-area Medicare Fraud Schemes

Farmington Hills, Mich., resident Baskaran Thangarasan was sentenced today to 57 months in prison for his participation in a fraudulent physical therapy scheme, announced the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS).

U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox in the Eastern District of Michigan sentenced Thangarasan to three years of supervised release following his prison term and ordered Thangarasan to pay $2.3 million in restitution, jointly with co-defendants.

Thangarasan pleaded guilty on Dec. 9, 2009, to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. According to information contained in plea documents, Thangarasan, a licensed physical therapist, admitted that he began working in approximately February 2003 as a contract therapist for a co-conspirator who owned and controlled several companies operating in the Detroit area that purported to provide physical and occupational therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries. According to his plea documents, Thangarasan admitted that he, his co-conspirator and others created fictitious therapy files appearing to document physical and occupational therapy services provided to Medicare beneficiaries, when in fact no such services had been provided. According to court documents, the fictitious services reflected in the files were billed to Medicare through sham Medicare providers controlled by co-conspirators.

Thangarasan also admitted that during the course of the scheme, he signed approximately 1,011 fictitious physical therapy files indicating that he had provided physical therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries, when in fact he had not. Thangarasan admitted that he was paid approximately $50 for each file that he falsified. Thangarasan also admitted that between approximately September 2003 and May 2006, he falsified physical therapy files that supported claims to the Medicare program totaling approximately $5 million. Medicare paid approximately $2.3 million on those claims. Thangarasan admitted that, throughout the conspiracy, he was fully aware that Medicare was being billed for physical therapy services that he falsely indicated he had performed.

Today’s sentencing was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara L. McQuade; Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the HHS Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant Chief John K. Neal and Trial Attorneys Gejaa T. Gobena and Stephanie Hays of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section as well as former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas W. Beimers. The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in seven districts have obtained indictments of more than 585 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for approximately $1.3 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

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Criminal Division
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