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Friday, October 31, 2014

Owner and Patient Recruiter Sentenced to Prison for Their Roles in $258.5 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

An owner and operator of two community mental health centers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and a patient recruiter for a community mental health center in Houston, Texas, were sentenced  to prison today for their involvement in a $258.5 million Medicare fraud scheme involving partial hospitalization psychiatric (PHP) services. 

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

Roslyn F. Dogan, 53, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and James R. Hunter, 48, of Houston, Texas, were sentenced by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Brian A. Jackson in the Middle District of Louisiana to 90 months in prison and 60 months in prison, respectively.  In addition to the prison sentences, Dogan was ordered to pay $43.5 million and Hunter was ordered to pay $3.2 million in restitution.

After six days of trial, on May 21, 2014, a federal jury found Dogan guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and two counts of health care fraud, and also found Hunter guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks.

According to evidence presented at trial, Dogan was a co-owner of Serenity Center of Baton Rouge, and a manager and marketer for both Serenity Center and Shifa Community Mental Health Center of Baton Rouge.  Dogan recruited Medicare beneficiaries who were living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities to attend the PHP programs at Shifa and Serenity, knowing the individuals did not need the psychotherapy programs.  She then devised methods to keep the patients at the facilities for as long as possible without invoking scrutiny from Medicare, including by having patients involuntarily committed to local inpatient psychiatric hospitals and then discharged and re-admitted to one of the Shifa facilities.  Additionally, Dogan directed administrators and therapists at the Shifa Baton Rouge facilities to falsify treatment records indicating that patients had received psychotherapy treatment when, in fact, the patients had not received such treatment.  She further concealed the fraud by directing that patient billing statements be intercepted from the mail to prevent the patients from seeing the services that had been billed in their names, and by stealing incriminating documents seized pursuant to a search warrant from federal custody.

Evidence at trial demonstrated that Hunter agreed to recruit Medicare beneficiaries to attend the PHP program at Shifa Community Mental Health Center of Texas in Houston in exchange for $1,500 per week in cash.  Hunter recruited Medicare recipients from group homes who were not appropriate for the PHP services, but who agreed to attend the program in exchange for $75 cash per week.  To ensure their admittance to the program, Hunter instructed each beneficiary as what to say to physicians regarding their supposed psychiatric symptoms.  As a result of the kickback scheme with Hunter, the Houston facility billed Medicare approximately $16.5 million.

According to court documents, the investigation into the three community mental health centers has resulted in the conviction of seventeen individuals, including therapists, marketers, administrators, owners and a medical director.  The companies collectively submitted more than $258 million in claims to Medicare for PHP services over a period of seven years.  Medicare paid approximately $43.5 million on those claims.

The case is being investigated by HHS-OIG, the FBI, and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, 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 for the Middle District of Louisiana.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Abigail Taylor and Dustin M. Davis of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Shubhra Shivpuri of the Middle District of Louisiana.

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 & 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.

Updated May 22, 2015