WASHINGTON – Two Brooklyn, N.Y., residents pleaded guilty today for their roles in a $71 million Medicare fraud scheme, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E. Lynch; Acting Assistant Director in Charge Mary E. Galligan of the FBI’s New York Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Thomas O’Donnell of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).
Katherina Kostiochenko, 34, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon in the Eastern District of New York to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, one count of health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to pay kickbacks. Sergey V. Shelikhov, 51, pleaded guilty today before Judge Gershon to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
Co-conspirator Leonid Zheleznyakov, 28, pleaded guilty yesterday before Judge Gershon to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud for his role in the scheme.
Kostiochenko, Shelikhov and Zheleznyakov were employees of a clinic in Brooklyn that operated under three corporate names: Bay Medical Care PC, SVS Wellcare Medical PLLC and SZS Medical Care PLLC (Bay Medical clinic). According to court documents, owners, operators and employees of the Bay Medical clinic paid cash kickbacks to Medicare beneficiaries and used the beneficiaries’ names to bill Medicare for more than $71 million in services that were medically unnecessary or never provided. The defendants billed Medicare for a wide variety of fraudulent medical services and procedures, including physician office visits, physical therapy and diagnostic tests.
According to the criminal complaint, the co-conspirators allegedly paid kickbacks to corrupt Medicare beneficiaries in a room at the clinic known as the “kickback room,” in which the conspirators paid approximately 1,000 kickbacks totaling more than $500,000 during a period of approximately six weeks from April to June 2010.
Kostiochenko, Shelikhov and Zheleznyakov pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit health care fraud for their roles in the Bay Medical scheme. Kostiochenko also pleaded guilty to paying cash kickbacks to Medicare beneficiaries as part of the scheme.
At sentencing, Kostiochenko faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, and Shelikhov and Zheleznyakov both face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Kostiochenko and Zheleznyakov are scheduled for sentencing on March 12, 2013, and Shelikhov is scheduled for sentencing March 13, 2013.
In total, 16 individuals have been charged in the Bay Medical scheme, including two doctors, nine clinic owners/operators/employees and five external money launderers. To date, 10 defendants have pleaded guilty for their roles in the conspiracy. Six individuals await trial before Judge Gershon on Jan. 22, 2013.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Sarah M. Hall of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Shannon Jones of the Eastern District of New York. The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS.
The case 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 New York. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.
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 .