A federal jury in Detroit today convicted a physical therapist, physical therapy assistant and unlicensed doctor for their participation in a nearly $15 million Medicare fraud scheme.
Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. O’Neil of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the Detroit Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Office of Investigations made the announcement.
Shahzad Mirza, 43, a physical therapist; Jigar Patel, 30, a physical therapy assistant; and Srinivas Reddy, 38, a foreign medical school graduate without a license to practice medicine were each found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud in connection with a scheme perpetrated from approximately July 2008 through September 2011 at Detroit area companies Physicians Choice Home Health Care LLC (Physicians Choice), Quantum Home Care Inc. (Quantum), First Care Home Health Care LLC (First Care), Moonlite Home Care Inc. (Moonlite) and Phoenix Visiting Physicians. In addition, Mirza and Patel were each found guilty of two counts of health care fraud in connection with the submission of false claims to Medicare for home health services, and Reddy was found guilty of three counts of health care fraud in connection with the submission of false claims to Medicare for home health services and physician home visits. Patel was found guilty of one count of money laundering in connection with his laundering of the proceeds of the fraud through his company MI Healthcare Staffing.
The defendants were charged in a superseding indictment returned Feb. 6, 2012. Three other individuals charged in the indictment remain fugitives.
According to evidence presented at trial, Physicians Choice, Quantum, First Care and Moonlite operated a fraudulent scheme to bill Medicare for home health care services that were never provided. The home health care companies paid kickbacks to recruiters who in turn paid Medicare beneficiaries cash and promised them access to narcotic prescriptions. The conspirators created the company Phoenix Visiting Physicians, which employed unlicensed individuals, including Reddy, to visit patients and provide them with narcotic prescriptions as well as obtain the information necessary to fill out paperwork to refer them for medically unnecessary home health care services.
Evidence presented at trial showed that beneficiaries pre-signed medical paperwork that was provided to Patel and other physical therapist assistants to fill in with false information purporting to show that the care was provided, when it was not. Patel, registered physical therapist Mirza and others would sign this paperwork as though they had provided services. In the course of the conspiracy, Patel incorporated his own staffing company, MI Healthcare Staffing, through which he laundered proceeds of the fraud from home health care companies and a shell company owned and operated by his co-conspirators.
Physicians Choice and the related companies were paid nearly $15 million in the course of the conspiracy.
Sentencing for all three defendants has not yet been scheduled.
The investigation was led by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and was brought by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a joint effort of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Chief Catherine K. Dick and Trial Attorneys Matthew C. Thuesen and Rohan A. Virginkar of the Fraud Section.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,700 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 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.