LANSING AREA DOCTOR SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR ACCEPTING KICKBACKS FOR MEDICAL REFERRALS AND NOT REPORTING CASH INCOME FROM SIGNING MEDICAL MARIJUANA CERTIFICATIONS
Dr. Shannon Wiggins also ordered to forfeit her two medical offices,
a 2009 Jaguar, and a 2006 Cadillac Escalade.
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – United States District Judge Robert Holmes Bell sentenced Dr. Shannon Wiggins, 45, of Okemos, Michigan to two years of imprisonment on charges of receipt of health care kickback payments and falsifying an income tax return, U.S. Attorney Patrick A. Miles, Jr. announced today. The convictions arise from an Indictment which charged that between January 2004 and April 2011 Dr. Wiggins conspired with her husband, Mohamad Abduljaber, to receive kickbacks for referring patients for electrodiagnostic testing. Dr. Wiggins also admitted signing a false tax return which did not accurately disclose cash income that she earned from signing medical marijuana certifications. Abduljaber has entered guilty pleas to the same charges and awaits sentencing on October 2.
Judge Bell also ordered Dr. Wiggins to pay $285,781 in restitution to Medicaid and the IRS and to forfeit $550,000, including Dr. Wiggins’s former medical offices at 4415 Grand River Ave. and 2310 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing, a 2009 Jaguar, and a 2006 Cadillac Escalade. Judge Bell previously sentenced the physical therapist who paid the kickback payments, Chyawan Bansil, to 13 months of imprisonment for billing insurance companies for the same electrodiagnostic testing, which he admitted he never actually performed. The U.S. Attorney’s Office previously collected $350,000 in restitution for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, $2.25 million in monetary damages on behalf of Medicare, and $150,000 in forfeiture from Mr. Bansil.
The case against Dr. Wiggins resulted from a joint investigation conducted by the Lansing Police Department, IRS-Criminal Investigation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. The kickback scheme was initially discovered by officers from the Lansing Police Department and personnel from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan who were investigating prescription drug diversion in Lansing, Michigan. After undercover Lansing police officers were referred for suspicious electrodiagnostic testing by Bansil at Dr. Wiggins’s office, federal investigators examined the medical records as well as the financial records of Mr. Bansil and confirmed that Bansil was billing for services that he did not perform. Investigators further determined that Bansil was paying Dr. Wiggins and Abduljaber illegal kickback payments to refer patients for the purported testing.
In its sentencing memorandum, the Government argued that such kickback payments caused Dr. Wiggins to increase her Medicare referrals for electrodiagnostic testing from 24 tests per year to more than 1,600 tests per year. Judge Bell noted that the country is in the midst of a “prescription drug epidemic” and emphasized that the receipt of kickback payments for referring medical tests is “unlawful and unprofessional.” As part of her sentence, Dr. Wiggins was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release following her incarceration. She will also be excluded from participating with Medicare and Medicaid for a minimum of five years.
“The payment and receipt of illegal kickbacks distorts the motives of health care professionals and causes unnecessary testing and expenses which increases everyone’s costs,” U.S. Attorney Miles said. This office will continue to pursue criminal and civil proceedings, employ the resources of our law enforcement and private insurance partners, and protect the public against fraud. “Medical practitioners who exploit patients and public or private health care insurance providers for unlawful and selfish financial gain face significant criminal charges and civil remedies. As this case demonstrates, those who attempt to defraud the system through illegal kickback arrangements will suffer the specter of incarceration, treble damages, civil penalties, forfeiture, and future exclusion from participating with Medicare and Medicaid.”
“Paying or receiving kickbacks in exchange for the referral of Medicare or Medicaid patients is illegal,” said Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General – Chicago Region. “The payment of kickbacks leads to overutilization, corruption of medical decision-making and increased program costs. Allegations of such conduct will be aggressively investigated by the OIG and our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who are unjustly enriched by these schemes are held accountable.”
“The fraud perpetuated by Shannon Wiggins and her husband, Mohamad Abduljaber, was rampant and clearly shows that they were driven by greed to use her medical license to dramatically increase their income, rather than to provide medical care to the community. IRS-CI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to strike back at those who commit health care fraud,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Jarod Koopman.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Raymond E. Beckering III and Adam Townshend and jointly investigated by the Lansing Police Department, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, HHS-OIG, IRS-CID, and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.