Good morning, and thank you all for being here.
Today I’m joined by several key leaders and partners in the U.S. government’s fight against health care fraud: Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Special Agent in Charge John Gillies of the FBI’s Miami Field Office, HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Willy Ferrer.
We are here to announce the results of the largest federal health care fraud takedown in our nation’s history: 94 people in four cities have been charged for their alleged participation in schemes to submit more than $251 million in false Medicare claims. Here in Miami, 24 defendants have been charged for their alleged involvement in fraud schemes totaling approximately $103 million. Additional arrests have been made in Baton Rouge, Brooklyn and Detroit.
Through this operation, we have stopped various large-scale fraud attempts. We have safeguarded precious taxpayer dollars. And we have helped to protect our nation’s most essential health care programs – Medicare and Medicaid – which provide critical assistance to elderly, disabled and impoverished Americans.
Today’s operation was led by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a joint initiative between the Departments of Justice and HHS. More than 360 la w enforcement agents from the FBI, HHS-Office of Inspector General, multiple Medicaid Fraud Control Units, and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies participated. And I want to recognize and applaud these agents for this outstanding work.
As today’s arrests prove, the federal government is working aggressively – and collaboratively – to pursue health care criminals around the country and to bring these offenders to justice.
Those charged today include physicians, medical assistants, and health care company owners and executives. According to the indictments, these defendants participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare for treatments that were not medically necessary and, oftentimes, never provided.
Although today marks a critical step forward in combating and deterring such illegal activity, our work is far from over. In addition to making arrests around the country, law enforcement agents are executing search warrants in connection with ongoing health care fraud investigations. We will continue to follow the evidence in these cases wherever it leads us.
Our continued Strike Force operations reflect the unprecedented commitment that inspired the creation of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team – known as HEAT – in May of last year. Through HEAT, we’ve ensured that the fight against health care fraud is a Cabinet-level priority. And we are strengthening our capacity to fight health care fraud at every level, most especially through the enhanced use of our joint Medicare Fraud Strike Force.
Since March 2007, when the first phase of the Strike Force was launched here in South Florida, this initiative has resulted in the indictments of more than 810 organizations and individuals, including those charged today. By improperly billing Medicare for more than $1.85 billion, t hese criminals have siphoned resources from the most vulnerable among us. Their actions have also helped to drive up health care costs nationwide.
With today’s arrests, we’re putting would-be criminals on notice: Health care fraud is no longer a safe bet. It’s no longer easy money. If you choose to engage in health care fraud, you will be found; you will be stopped; and you will be brought to justice.
Once again, I want to thank the agents, investigators, prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and many partners involved in today’s takedown. They are the key to our ultimate success in the fight against health care fraud.
I’d now like to turn this over to Secretary Sebelius.