United States v. Michael J. Ligotti
Court Docket No.: 9:20-MJ-08265-BER (S.D. Florida)
Court Assigned: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Paul G. Rogers Federal Building and Courthouse, 701 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach, FL 33401.
Latest Update: At this time, the Department of Justice in is in the process of notifying potential victims who may have been impacted by defendant Ligotti’s alleged conduct. Those interested in viewing a copy of the Title 42 order for the disclosure of patient records can do so here:
Order Dated December 12, 2017 – Issued by Judge Dave Lee Brannon
Order Dated July 16, 2019 – Issued by Judge Dave Lee Brannon
Order Dated October 25, 2019 – Issued by Judge Dave Lee Brannon
Order Dated April 2, 2020 – Issued by Judge Dave Lee Brannon
Next Proceeding: The trial for defendant Ligotti is scheduled for May 23, 2022.
The preliminary hearing for defendant Ligotti was held on September 1, 2020. The court ruled in favor of the Government, and denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss, finding probable cause existed to support the charges against Dr. Ligotti under FRCP 5.1. The case has now been held over for further proceedings.
On August 3, 2020, Ligotti was released on Bond.
Bond was set at a $1,000,000 Personal Surety Bond w/cosigners, and $500,000 10% Bond. As further conditions of his bond, Dr. Ligotti was required to surrender his DEA Registration, and was prohibited from providing or billing for any further addiction treatment services for the pendency of this case. In addition, Dr. Ligotti was ordered to preserve all Whole Health medical files in his possession, and prohibited from destroying them.
Potential victims and those with information related to Dr. Michael Ligotti or Whole Health should e-mail ReportML@FBI.GOV. and use the title “Ligotti Whole Health” in the title of the email when submitting complaints and/or other information regarding this case.
Criminal Charges: On July 30th, 2020, Michael J. Ligotti, a Palm Beach County, Florida doctor was arrested and charged with conspiring to commit health care fraud and wire fraud for his alleged participation in a massive years-long health care fraud scheme throughout Palm Beach County, billing for fraudulent tests and treatments for vulnerable patients seeking treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction.
In a criminal complaint unsealed July 30, 2020, Michael J. Ligotti, D.O, 46, of Delray Beach, Florida, was charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. Ligotti made his initial appearance on July 31, 2020 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart in the Southern District of Florida. His bond hearing occurred on August 3, 2020 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brannon, at which the government sought detention. However, the magistrate judge granted a bond.
The complaint alleges that from approximately May 2011 through March 2020, private insurance companies and Medicare were fraudulently billed approximately $681 million for laboratory testing claims and other services as part of this fraudulent scheme, for which they paid approximately $121 million.
According to the complaint, Ligotti owned and operated Whole Health in Delray Beach, Florida. Whole Health was a private clinic, which offered, among other things, addiction treatment, family care, and urgent care.
The allegations in the complaint detail Ligotti’s central role in the fraud scheme. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Ligotti: (1) agreed to become the purported “Medical Director” for an addiction treatment facility or sober home for a nominal fee; (2) authorized “standing orders” for hundreds of millions of dollars in medically unnecessary urinalysis tests (UAs), which were billed by testing laboratories that sometimes paid kickbacks to the sober homes or addiction treatment facilities; and (3) in exchange for his signature on these standing orders, required the facilities to have their patients treated by Whole Health and his staff, allowing him to bill hundreds of millions of dollars in additional fraudulent treatments, including unnecessary and expensive UAs, costly blood tests, non-existent therapy sessions, office visits, and other unnecessary services, regardless of whether such treatment and testing were medically necessary and/or actually provided. Ligotti allegedly did not meaningfully review the results of the tests he ordered or use the results of the tests to treat these patients, either at his clinic or at the addiction treatment facilities.
Over the course of the scheme, Ligotti allegedly served as “Medical Director” for more than 50 addiction treatment facilities, and signed over 136 standing orders authorizing such fraudulent tests. According to the complaint, patients at these addiction treatment centers and sober homes were brought to Whole Health and required to submit to testing and treatments authorized by Ligotti, including UA tests at the facilities and at Whole Health. The complaint alleges that the facilities and testing laboratories were also able to bill these patients’ insurers for bogus UA tests authorized by Ligotti. In this way, all parties benefited: (1) the laboratories could bill for these medically unnecessary tests; (2) the addiction treatment facilities and sober homes could bill for such unnecessary testing as well, and sometimes received a kickback from the laboratories for each sample they could provide for testing; and (3) Ligotti could bill millions of dollars’ worth of medically unnecessary, excessive and duplicative treatments for the patients who were delivered to his office as the condition for him signing the standing orders that fueled the entire scheme in the first place.
The complaint further alleges that Ligotti authorized and conducted UAs and blood tests for revenue-generation and did not use these tests in patient treatment. Ligotti allegedly billed for psychiatric services and therapy sessions that never happened, and that he and his staff were not qualified to conduct. Some patients allegedly were billed between $10,000 and $20,000 by Ligotti and Whole Health for a single day’s visit. As charged, Ligotti also utilized multiple nurse practitioners/medical extenders under his practice to fraudulently bill patients’ private insurance. Finally, the complaint also alleges that Ligotti improperly prescribed controlled substances, including large quantities of buprenorphine/Suboxone, frequently exceeding the number of patients he was legally authorized to treat. He provided these drugs to patients who did not need it and ignored evidence of possible diversion.
For more information about the charges, please see below:
*A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. *
The information on this website will be updated as new developments arise in the case. If you have any questions, please call the Victim Assistance Line toll-free at (888) 549-3945 or email us at VictimAssistance.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Presumption of Innocence: It is important to keep in mind that a complaint contains allegations only, and that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and that presumption requires both the court and our office to take certain steps to ensure that justice is served.
Crime Victims’ Rights Act and Right to Retain Counsel: Because charges have been filed in this case in federal court, you also may be entitled to the following rights, according to the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, Title 18, United States Code, Section 3771: (1) The right to be reasonably protected from the accused; (2) The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding, involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused; (3) The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding; (4) The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding; (5) The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case; (6) The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law; (7) The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay; (8) The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy; (9) The right to be informed in a timely manner of any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement; and (10) The right to be informed of the rights under this section and the services described in section 503(c) of the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. § 10607(c)) and provided contact information for the Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman of the Department of Justice. The Crime Victims’ Rights Act (18 U.S.C. § 3771) applies only to victims of the counts charged in federal court, and thus individuals may not be able to exercise all of these rights if the crime of which the individual is a victim was not charged.
Section 3771(c)(2) of this Act requires that we advise you that you have the right to retain counsel. Although the statute specifically sets forth your right to seek advice of an attorney with regard to your rights under the statute, there is no requirement that you retain counsel. The Government may not recommend any specific counsel, nor can the Government (or the Court) pay for counsel to represent you. Government attorneys represent the United States.
If you elect to obtain counsel to represent your interests, please have your attorney notify this office in writing at: U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, 10th & Constitution Avenue, NW, Bond Building, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20530, Attention: Victim Witness Unit; fax: (202) 514-3708; or email: email@example.com. If you elect not to retain counsel to represent your interests, you do not need to do anything.