A North Carolina woman has pleaded guilty for her involvement in a $28.3 million Medicare fraud scheme involving physical and occupational therapy services.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Paul Wysopal of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Christopher Dennis of the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) made the announcement.
Margarita M. Grishkoff, 59, of Charlotte, N.C., and formerly of southwest Florida, pleaded guilty today in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Her sentencing date will be set by the court. She faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
According to documents filed in the case, Grishkoff and her co-conspirators used various physical therapy clinics and other business entities throughout Florida and elsewhere to submit approximately $28.3 million in fraudulent reimbursement claims to Medicare from 2005 through 2009. Medicare paid approximately $14.4 million on those claims.
Grishkoff, a former attorney who was disbarred in 1997, was vice president, director and registered agent in Florida for a Delaware holding company known as Ulysses Acquisitions Inc. Grishkoff and co-conspirators used Ulysses Acquisitions to purchase comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facilities and outpatient physical therapy providers, including West Coast Rehab Inc. in Fort Myers, Fla.; Rehab Dynamics Inc. in Venice, Fla.; Polk Rehabilitation Inc. in Lake Wales, Fla.; and Renew Therapy Center of Port St. Lucie LLC in Port St. Lucie, Fla., to gain control of these clinics’ Medicare provider numbers.
Working with co-conspirators in Miami and elsewhere, Grishkoff and her co-conspirators obtained identifying information of Medicare beneficiaries through paying kickbacks. They also obtained unique identifying information of physicians. Grishkoff and her co-conspirators then used this information to create and submit false claims to Medicare through the clinics Ulysses Acquisitions purchased. These claims sought reimbursement for therapy services that were not legitimately prescribed and not actually provided.
Grishkoff and co-conspirators also paid kickbacks to co-conspirators who owned other therapy clinics that were used to further the fraud scheme. For example, Grishkoff and co-conspirators used the clinics they controlled to submit false reimbursement claims to Medicare on behalf of Miami-based therapy clinics such as Hallandale Rehabilitation Inc., Tropical Physical Therapy Corporation, American Wellness Centers Inc., and West Regional Center Inc. Grishkoff and co-conspirators would retain approximately 20 percent of the money Medicare paid on these claims and pay the other 80 percent of the fraud proceeds to the co-conspirator clinic owners.
When Grishkoff and her co-conspirators were done using the clinics they acquired through Ulysses Acquisitions, they engaged in sham sales of the clinics to nominee or straw owners, all of whom were recent immigrants to the United States with no background or experience in the health care industry. Grishkoff and others did this in an effort to try to disassociate themselves from the fraudulent operations of their clinics.
This case is being investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Christopher J. Hunter and Andrew H. Warren of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant United States Attorney Simon A. Gaugush of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.
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, the HHS 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 Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov .