A greater Detroit-area physical therapist assistant – who was also an owner of a home health agency and a patient recruiter – pleaded guilty today for his role in a $22 million home health care fraud scheme.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan; 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 Chicago Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) made the announcement.
Syed Shah, 51, of West Bloomfield, Mich., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman in the Eastern District of Michigan to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. At sentencing, scheduled for Nov. 19, 2013, Shah faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
According to information contained in plea documents, Shah, a licensed physical therapist assistant, admitted that beginning in or around October 2008 and continuing through approximately September 2012, he conspired with others to commit health care fraud by billing Medicare for home health care services that were not actually rendered and/or not medically necessary. Shah admitted that he began working in approximately October 2008 for Prestige Home Health Services, Inc., a home health agency located in Troy, Mich., owned by alleged co-conspirators. His co-conspirators at Prestige paid him kickbacks in exchange for his obtaining the information of Medicare beneficiaries, which the co-conspirators then used to bill Medicare for services that were not provided and/or were not medically necessary. Shah and his co-conspirators then created fictitious therapy files appearing to document physical therapy services provided to Medicare beneficiaries, when in fact no such services had been provided and/or were not medically necessary. Shah admitted that his role in creating the fictitious therapy files was to sign documents and progress notes indicating he had provided physical therapy services to particular Medicare beneficiaries, when in fact he had not. Shah admitted to knowing that the documents he falsified were used to support false claims billed to Medicare by his co-conspirators at Prestige.
In his plea, Shah also acknowledged that in approximately August 2009, he became an owner of Royal Home Health Care, Inc., a home health agency located in Troy, Mich., along with other co-conspirators. He and his co-conspirators at Royal billed Medicare for home health visits that never occurred and were not medically necessary. Shah and his co-conspirators paid kickbacks to Shah and other patient recruiters in exchange for Medicare beneficiary information, which was then used to bill Medicare for services that were not provided and/or were not medically necessary. Shah admitted that he and his co-conspirators created fictitious therapy files, reflecting services that had not been provided and/or were not medically necessary. He knew the documents he falsified would be used to support false claims by Royal to Medicare for home health services.
Shah submitted or caused the submission of claims to Medicare for services that were not medically necessary and/or not provided, which in turn caused Medicare to pay approximately $5,925,843. According to the indictment, two additional home health agencies were involved in the alleged conspiracy. In total, the four home health agencies at the center of the indictment received more than $22 million from the Medicare program.
This case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and IRS Criminal Investigation, brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, and supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Niall M. O’Donnell of the Criminal Division’s 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 1,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare & 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.