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Thursday, May 14, 2015

New Orleans Jury Convicts Two Doctors, a Nurse and an Office Manager for Roles in $50 Million Fraud Scheme

A jury in New Orleans convicted four employees of medical service clinics yesterday for their roles in a $50 million Medicare fraud scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite of the Eastern District of Louisiana, Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Anderson of the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Mike Fields of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Dallas Regional Office and Louisiana Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell made the announcement.

Barbara Smith, M.D., 66, of Metairie, Louisiana; Roy Berkowitz, M.D., 69, of Slidell, Louisiana; Beverly Breaux, 67, of New Orleans; and Joe Ann Murthil, 57, of New Orleans, were convicted on all counts after a five-day jury trial before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Sarah S. Vance of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Evidence introduced at trial showed that the defendants and others carried out a home health care fraud scheme in and around New Orleans through multiple companies over the course of more than 10 years.  Smith and Berkowitz falsely claimed that thousands of Medicare recipients were homebound and required nursing or therapy services to be provided in their homes.  Breaux was a registered nurse who falsely certified that these patients were homebound, and falsely claimed to have treated patients that she had not seen.  Murthil was an office manager and biller at one home health company who assisted with the payment of illegal kickbacks to patient recruiters.  Murthil also submitted false claims to Medicare stating that patients were homebound when some of these patients had jobs, had not received services or did not want services.  From 2007 through 2014, the companies in this scheme submitted more than $56 million in claims to Medicare, the vast majority of which were fraudulent.  Medicare paid approximately $50.7 million on these claims.

Sentencing for the defendants is scheduled for Aug. 26, 2015.  In total, 13 defendants have been charged for their roles in this scheme.  Nine other defendants previously pleaded guilty.

This case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and the Louisiana Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Louisiana.  This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys William Kanellis and Antonio Pozos and Assistant Chief Ben Curtis of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,100 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6.5 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & 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 Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

15-621
Topic: 
Healthcare Fraud
Updated May 14, 2015