Two Brooklyn Area Physicians and One Medicare Beneficiarycharged in Nationwide Medicare Fraud Strike Force Takedown
Total of 91 Defendants Charged for Allegedly Submitting Approximately $295 Million in Fraudulent Claims
BROOKLYN– Two doctors and one Medicare beneficiary have been charged in connection with an alleged health care fraud scheme operated out of the Solstice Wellness Center, a Brooklyn-area clinic that purported to specialize in providing physical therapy and various diagnostic tests, announced the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS).
The charges filed in Brooklyn are part of a nationwide takedown by Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations that led to charges against 91 defendants for their alleged participation in schemes to collectively submit approximately $295 million in fraudulent claims to the Medicare program. This takedown involved the highest amount of false Medicare billings in a single takedown in Strike Force history.
Dr. Jesse A. Stoff, 55, the former medical director of the Solstice Wellness Center, and Dr. Billy N. Geris, 53, a former physician at Solstice, were each charged in a superseding indictment unsealed today in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York with conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks, conspiracy to commit health care fraud and six counts each of health care fraud. In addition, Maria Nakhbo, 72, a Medicare beneficiary, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks and one count of making false statements.
According to the superseding indictment, Stoff and Geris schemed to pay cash kickbacks to Medicare beneficiaries to induce those beneficiaries to report to Solstice Wellness Center as legitimate patients and purportedly receive medical services there. Once the cash kickbacks were paid, Medicare beneficiaries were seen by various physicians who prescribed medically unnecessary services, such as physical therapy and diagnostic tests. The false and fraudulent claims were submitted to Medicare were for services that were not actually rendered and that were not medically necessary. Nakhbo is alleged to have received cash kickbacks at Solstice.
Six defendants previously charged in the case -- Pelageya Kotelsky, Ilya Gershkovich, Evgeny Gil, Valentina Mushinskaya, Shelya Pinskaya and Vladimir Rubin -- are scheduled for trial in October, 2011.
The charges of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks and making a false statement carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, per count. The charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, per count.
An indictment is merely a charge, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The results of the nationwide takedown were announced today by Attorney General Holder, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). The Brooklyn indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch of the Eastern District of New York.
“The defendants charged in this takedown are accused of stealing precious taxpayer resources and defrauding Medicare – jeopardizing the integrity of our health care system and our nation’s most critical health care program for personal gain,” said Attorney General Holder. “Our highly coordinated, nationwide Strike Force operations are working aggressively to combat Medicare fraud and our anti-health care fraud efforts have never been more innovative, collaborative, aggressive – or effective. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and partners across government to fight against health care fraud.”
The Brooklyn case is being prosecuted by Acting Assistant Chief Ben Curtis and Trial Attorneys Katherine Houston and Steve Kim of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. HHS Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), the Office of the New York Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and the New York Office of the Medicaid Inspector General conducted the investigation. 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.
Since their inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,140 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.9 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are 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.
The Department of Justice believes that it is important to keep victims/witnesses of federal crime informed of court proceedings and what services may be available to assist you.