KALAMAZOO SOCIAL WORKER IS MOST RECENT IN A SERIES OF PROFESSIONALS SENTENCED TO FEDERAL PRISON FOR HEALTH CARE CRIMES
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – Olga Ortiz-Button, age 57 of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $276,794.00 in restitution for a scheme that bilked insurance carriers for over a quarter of a million dollars of counseling services that were never provided. Ortiz-Button, a Licensed Masters Social Worker who did business as the Christian Counseling Center, PLC, was also ordered by Chief United States Judge Paul Maloney to serve two years of supervised release after she is released from prison. At the sentencing hearing, Chief Judge Maloney emphasized that this sentence was intended to both punish the fraud and to deter other health care professionals from engaging in fraudulent billing practices by making clear that the penalty for such conduct “will be prison.”
Ortiz-Button was only the most recent in a series of cases involving professionals in the health care field. Earlier this year, Aaron and Michelle Clark of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan pled
guilty to charges of health care fraud stemming from a scheme to defraud Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan through their operation of Superior Physical Therapy in Sault Ste. Marie. That indictment charged that Aaron and Michelle Clark utilized a variety of schemes to fraudulently obtain payments in excess of $500,000.00 for physical therapy services that were either not reimbursable or that were never provided to patients. The Clarks’ sentencings are scheduled before U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell on April 12, 2011. On December 15, 2010, Robert D’Amour, 50, a dentist from Kingsford, was sentenced to 14 months’ imprisonment for a felony conviction of illegal distribution of narcotics outside the normal course of professional practice. D’Amour was also ordered to forfeit $50,000 and to pay a $10,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Davis noted that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius were in Detroit, Michigan this week for a Health Care Fraud Summit to address both the impact of health care fraud and the efforts to identify and prosecute various schemes to defraud private and public health insurance programs. The summit brought together federal, state, and local partners to highlight fraud prevention efforts, provide information about how patients and companies in the public and private sector can protect themselves from fraud, and discuss innovative ways to eliminate fraud in the U.S. health care system. U.S. Attorney Davis noted that “the presence of Attorney General Holder and Secretary Sebelius in Michigan demonstrates that protecting the integrity of our private and public health care insurance systems in of paramount importance to the Department of Justice. This most recent sentencing is another warning to health care professionals who abuse the trust that our health care system places on their professional conduct. Federal agencies will continue to pursue professionals who submit false or exaggerated claims for reimbursements or prescribe outside of the normal course of professional practice. Medical professionals who abuse this trust or obstruct investigations will face consequences that include incarceration, fines, and loss of the ability to participate with insurance providers in the future.”