Last of Five Defendants Pleads Guilty in Multimillion-Dollar Medicare Fraud Scheme involving Detroit-Area Home Health Companies
The last of five defendants pleaded guilty for his role in a $33 million Medicare fraud scheme involving Detroit-area home health care and hospice companies. The other four defendants have all pleaded guilty since March 15, 2016.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios of the FBI’s Detroit Division and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Chicago Region made the announcement.
Muhammad Tariq, 60, of West Bloomfield, Michigan, an owner of home health care and hospice companies in the Detroit area, pleaded guilty yesterday before U.S. District Judge Sean F. Cox of the Eastern District of Michigan to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. On March 15 and March 18, 2016, respectively, Shahid Tahir, 45, and Manawar Javed, 40, both of Bloomfield, Michigan, two other owners of the home health care and hospice companies, each pleaded guilty before Judge Cox to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. On March 18 and March 22, 2016, respectively, Waseem Alam 60, of Troy, Michigan, and Hatem Ataya, 47, of Flushing, Michigan, two physicians involved in the fraud scheme, pleaded guilty before Judge Cox to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. Alam additionally pleaded guilty to an additional count of structuring. The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced in July 2016. All five defendants were charged in an indictment returned on June 11, 2015.
According to admissions made as part of their guilty pleas, Tahir, Javed and Tariq paid kickbacks, bribes and other inducements to Alam, Ataya and other physicians, as well as to marketers and patient recruiters, for beneficiary referrals to companies they owned, including A Plus Hospice and Palliative Care, At Home Hospice and At Home Network Inc. Tahir, Javed and Tariq admitted that they would then bill Medicare for home care and hospice services that were often medically unnecessary and not provided.
Alam was the top referring physician to the entities owned by the defendants and as such, was responsible for millions in Medicare reimbursements, he admitted. As part of his guilty plea, Alam admitted that he received kickbacks and other inducements from the owners of At Home Network in exchange for home health referrals. Alam bribed his patients into accepting services from At Home Network by providing them with medically unnecessary controlled substance prescriptions both personally and through unlicensed individuals, he admitted. Co-owner Tariq admitted that he knew about Alam’s controlled substances bribes to patients. Alam also instructed others to falsify patient files to hide the fact that the prescriptions were medically unnecessary, according to his plea agreement.
Ataya was the second-highest referring physician to At Home Network and the top referring physician to At Home Hospice. As part of his guilty plea, he admitted that he accepted kickbacks and other inducements in exchange for home health and hospice referrals. Ataya also admitted that the Tahir-associated companies would submit false billing based on his referrals for purported home health and hospice services, when, at times, these services were neither medically necessary nor provided.
The FBI and HHS-OIG investigated the case, which 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 of the Eastern District of Michigan. Trial Attorneys Shubhra Shivpuri, Malisa Dubal and Tom Tynan of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuted the case.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 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.