Broward County, Fla.-Area Halfway House Owner Pleads Guilty to Fraud and Kickback Scheme
WASHINGTON – The owner and operator of a Broward County, Fla.-area halfway house pleaded guilty today for his role in a Medicare fraud kickback scheme that funneled patients through a fraudulent mental health company, announced the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Barry Nash, 69, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry L. Garber in Miami to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Nash was the owner and operator of Starter House, a halfway house operating in Broward County.
Nash admitted that, in exchange for illegal health care kickbacks, he agreed to refer Medicare beneficiaries who resided at Starter House to American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC) for purported intensive mental health treatment called partial hospitalization program (PHP) services, and to the American Sleep Institute (ASI), a company related to ATC, for purported sleep treatment. Nash knew that ATC and ASI would fraudulently bill Medicare for the PHP treatment and sleep studies that his referrals would purportedly receive.
According to court documents, ATC’s principals paid kickbacks to owners and operators of assisted living facilities and halfway houses and to patient brokers in exchange for delivering ineligible patients to ATC and ASI. In some cases, the patients received a portion of those kickbacks. Throughout the course of the ATC conspiracy, millions of dollars in kickbacks were paid in exchange for Medicare beneficiaries who did not qualify for PHP services. Ultimately, ATC and ASI billed Medicare for more than $200 million in medically unnecessary services.
According to the plea agreement, Nash’s participation in the fraud resulted in more than $959,901 in fraudulent billing to the Medicare program. At sentencing, scheduled for March 8, 2012, Nash faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
ATC, its management company Medlink Professional Management Group Inc., and various owners, managers, doctors, therapists, patient brokers and marketers of ATC, Medlink and ASI, were charged with various health care fraud, kickback, money laundering and other offenses in two indictments unsealed on Feb. 15, 2011. ATC, Medlink and nine of the individual defendants have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial. Other defendants are scheduled for trial April 9, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz.
Today’s guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; John V. Gillies, Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent-in-Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami Office.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Steven Kim and Jennifer L. Saulino of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and 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 Southern District of Florida.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,160 defendants that collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $2.9 billion. In addition, HHS’s 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 .