Patient Recruiter Pleads Guilty in Louisiana Health Care Fraud Scheme
WASHINGTON – An Atlanta resident pleaded guilty today for his role in a Louisiana-based Medicare fraud scheme involving fraudulent claims for unnecessary durable medical equipment (DME), announced the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Louisiana State Attorney General’s Office.
Fred D. Belcher, 61, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge James J. Brady of the Middle District of Louisiana to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
Belcher admitted that he worked as a recruiter for Healthcare 1 LLC, Medical 1 Patient Services LLC and Lifeline Healthcare Services Inc., Louisiana-based companies that fraudulently billed DME to the Medicare program from 2004 to 2009. He and other recruiters were hired to obtain prescriptions for DME such as leg braces, arm braces, power wheel chairs and wheel chair accessories. Specifically, Belcher recruited Medicare beneficiaries to attend “health fairs” that he organized at churches and other locations in the beneficiaries’ communities. At these fairs, he obtained information from the beneficiaries and paid a doctor to prescribe medically unnecessary DME for the beneficiaries. Belcher then sold these prescriptions so they could be billed to Medicare by Healthcare 1 LLC, Medical 1 Patient Services LLC and Lifeline Healthcare Services Inc.
According to plea documents, from 2004 to 2009, Medicare was billed approximately $1.15 million for the beneficiaries that Belcher provided as part of this fraudulent scheme.
One of Belcher’s co-defendants, Beulah Renaee Richardson, pleaded guilty before Judge Brady on Jan. 26, 2012, for her role in the fraud scheme. Richardson, 47, admitted that she also served as a recruiter for Healthcare 1 LLC, Medical 1 Patient Services LLC and Lifeline Healthcare Services Inc. In addition, eight other defendants have pleaded guilty for their roles in the fraud scheme.
Belcher and Richardson face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Today’s plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. of the Middle District of Louisiana; Mike Fields, Special Agent-in-Charge of Dallas Region for the HHS Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG); David Welker, Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s New Orleans division; and Louisiana State Attorney General James Buddy Caldwell.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys David Maria and Abigail Taylor and Assistant Chief William Pericak of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Louisiana State Attorney General’s Office (MFCU), 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 Middle District of Louisiana.
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 .