A Detroit-area physician pleaded guilty today to making fraudulent referrals for home health care as part of a $1.6 million home health care fraud scheme, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara L. McQuade, Special Agent in Charge Robert D. Foley III of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Chicago Regional Office.
Dr. Sonjai Poonpanij, 82, of Rochester, Mich., pleaded guilty before Senior U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow in the Eastern District of Michigan to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
According to court documents, Dr. Poonpanij admitted that beginning in approximately July 2010, he conspired with others to commit health care fraud by referring Medicare beneficiaries for home health care that was not medically necessary and causing false and fraudulent claims to be submitted to Medicare.
Dr. Poonpanij admitted that he saw patients at a psychotherapy center in Flint, Mich., known as New Century Adult Day Program Services LLC, and referred Medicare beneficiaries at New Century to home health care companies – including a home health care company known as Angle’s Touch Home Health Care LLC – even though he knew that those beneficiaries did not qualify for home health care. According to court documents, Dr. Poonpanij wrote prescriptions for narcotics requested by the beneficiaries in exchange for their enrollment with Angle’s Touch for home health care that they did not need or receive. In addition to referring patients that he saw at New Century, Dr. Poonpanij also referred beneficiaries whom he had never seen or treated to Angle’s Touch and other home health agencies. Dr. Poonpanij signed plans of care for these beneficiaries that were used to bill Medicare for services that were either never actually performed or were not performed in the beneficiaries’ homes as required.
Court documents allege that between September 2008 and September 2012, Dr. Poonpanij caused Angle’s Touch and two other home health agencies to submit claims to Medicare for services that were not medically necessary and/or not provided, which caused Medicare to pay these companies approximately $1,318,954.
At sentencing, scheduled for Aug. 14, 2013, Dr. Poonpanij faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Niall M. O’Donnell of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. It 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 its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is 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 .