Staten Island Doctor Sentenced To 151 Months In Prison In Connection With $77 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme
Gustave Drivas, M.D., Was the “No-Show” Doctor for the Bay Medical Clinic in Bath Beach, Brooklyn that Fraudulently Billed Medicare More Than $77 Million
BROOKLYN, NY – Earlier today, Gustave Drivas, M.D., 58, of Staten Island, New York, was sentenced to 151 months in prison for his role as a “no-show” doctor in a $77 million Medicare fraud scheme. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon of the Eastern District of New York sentenced Drivas to three years of supervised release with a concurrent exclusion from employment with any federally funded medical treatment program, ordered him to forfeit $511,000, and ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $50,943,386. The State of New York revoked Dr. Drivas’s medical license earlier this year.
The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; George Venizelos, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); and Special Agent-in-Charge Thomas O’Donnell of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).
Drivas was convicted by a jury of health care fraud conspiracy and health care fraud on April 8, 2013, after a seven-week trial. Including Drivas, 13 individuals have been convicted of the massive fraud scheme, either through guilty plea or trial conviction.
“Abandoning the mandate to ‘do no harm,’ Dr. Drivas was instead up to no good. Drivas put personal greed before patient care, and was willing to sell his Medicare billing number for cash in his pocket,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “This Office and the Department of Justice will aggressively investigate and prosecute health care fraud. Corrupt doctors like Dr. Drivas are not above the law and will be held accountable for their crimes.”
According to court documents and the evidence at trial, from 2005 to 2010, Drivas was the medical director or a rendering physician of a clinic in Bath Beach, Brooklyn, that billed Medicare under three corporate names: Bay Medical Care PC, SVS Wellcare Medical PLLC, and SZS Medical Care PLLC (Bay Medical clinic). Drivas knowingly authorized his co-conspirators at the clinic to use his Medicare billing number to fraudulently charge Medicare more than $20 million for medical procedures and services that were never performed. In return, he received more than $500,000 for his role in the scheme. The evidence proved that Drivas was a “no show” doctor, who almost never visited the clinic except to pick up his check. The evidence also showed that the clinic paid cash kickbacks to Medicare beneficiaries and used the beneficiaries’ names to bill Medicare for more than $77 million in services that were medically unnecessary and never provided.
The government’s investigation included the use of a court-ordered audio/video recording device hidden in a room at the clinic, in which the conspirators paid cash kickbacks to corrupt Medicare beneficiaries. The conspirators were recorded paying approximately $500,000 in cash kickbacks during a period of approximately six weeks from April to June 2010. This room was marked “PRIVATE” and featured a Soviet-era poster of a woman with a finger to her lips and the words “Don’t Gossip” in Russian. The purpose of the kickbacks was to induce the beneficiaries to receive unnecessary medical services or to stay silent when services not provided to the patients were billed to Medicare.
To generate the large amounts of cash needed to pay the patients, Drivas’s business partners and co-conspirators recruited a network of external money launderers who cashed checks for the clinic. Clinic owners wrote clinic checks payable to various shell companies controlled by the money launderers. These checks did not represent payment for any legitimate service at or for the Bay Medical clinic, but rather were written to launder the clinic’s fraudulently obtained health care proceeds. The money launderers cashed these checks and provided the cash back to the clinic. Clinic employees used the cash to pay illegal cash kickbacks to the Bay Medical clinic’s purported patients.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Sarah M. Hall of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys William P. Campos and Shannon C. Jones of the Eastern District of New York. The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS.
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. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is 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.
GUSTAVE DRIVAS, M.D.
Staten Island, New York
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