FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
THURSDAY, May 4, 2006
RALEIGH - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced that in federal court yesterday, Chief U.S. District Judge Louise W. Flanagan sentenced BRIAN CONNER, former president of CONVALESCENT TRANSPORTS, INC., to 12½ years’ imprisonment based upon his October 2005 conviction on 343 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and two counts of obstruction of a health care investigation. CONNER was also ordered to pay a fine of $175,000. In addition, CONVALESCENT TRANSPORTS, INC., and CONNER were ordered to pay restitution to the Medicare and Medicaid programs in the total amount of $604,342. In arriving at the sentence, Judge Flanagan concluded that the defendants’ crime, by a conservative estimate, resulted in a loss to Medicare of over $3.5 million.
The evidence presented at trial showed that between 1999 and 2002, CONVALESCENT TRANSPORTS, INC., at the direction of CONNER, routinely made fraudulent claims that patients transported to routine dialysis treatments required ambulance transportation because they were “bed-confined,” meaning that they were unable to get up from bed without assistance, unable to walk, and unable to sit either in a chair or wheelchair. In fact, evidence showed that the patients involved in the case were routinely documented by health care workers and observed by Convalescent Transports’ employees to be able to do some or all of these things. Expert testimony further established that there was no other medical need for these patients to be transported by ambulance to routine, non-emergency dialysis treatments.
Testimony from current and former employees of the company established that the conspiracy to further this scheme dates back to at least 1997, when after learning of an imminent audit of the company’s billing practices, CONNER directed numerous employees to rewrite and falsify ambulance records to eliminate references to any patient’s ability to walk or sit. Evidence demonstrated that employees were also routinely instructed by CONNER from at least 1997 onward to omit such information from ambulance records because they were told that including the information would cause Medicare and Medicaid not to pay for the ambulance trips. Finally, the evidence showed that CONNER and CONVALESCENT TRANSPORTS sought to obstruct the investigation into their conduct by attempting to prevent records relevant to two separate subpoenas from the United States from being produced.
Investigation of the case was conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General and the Medicaid Fraud Unit of the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Yvonne Watford-McKinney and Jay Exum prosecuted the case for the United States.
News releases and media advisories are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.