Rehabilitation Agency Owner in Detroit Sentenced to 84 Months in Prison for Role in $3 Million Therapy Fraud Scheme
WASHINGTON – The owner of a Detroit-area rehabilitation agency was sentenced today to 84 months in prison for his leading role in a $3 million Medicare fraud scheme, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced.
Detroit-area resident Tariq Mahmud, 54, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn in the Eastern District of Michigan. In addition to his prison term, Mahmud was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution, joint and several with his co-defendants.
Mahmud was convicted by a federal jury on Feb. 2, 2012, after a four-day trial, of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and six counts of health care fraud. Mahmud was charged along with four other defendants in an indictment unsealed on Feb. 17, 2011, as part of a nationwide Medicare fraud takedown, and subsequently in a superseding indictment on Dec. 28, 2011. The four other defendants have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced.
According to evidence presented during the trial, Mahmud was the owner of Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services Inc. (CRS), a fraudulent rehabilitation agency located in Dearborn, Mich. Between January 2003 and February 2007, CRS purchased falsified physical and occupational therapy files from more than 30 therapy and rehabilitation companies and used them to fraudulently bill Medicare for more than $3 million.
As part of the scheme, Medicare beneficiaries were paid cash kickbacks and given prescription drugs to sign forms and visit sheets that were later falsified to indicate that they received therapy services that were never provided. Physical and occupational therapists created false evaluations, progress notes and discharge papers indicating that the therapy services were given, when in fact they never were. Evidence at trial showed that the therapists never met the beneficiaries and Mahmud never provided or supervised the therapy billed to Medicare.
In addition to submitting more than $3 million in false therapy claims, Mahmud made additional false statements to Medicare regarding services that were never rendered. For instance, when Medicare inquired regarding a beneficiary who complained that he had not received the services for which CRS billed Medicare, Mahmud returned the payment and told Medicare that he consulted with his professional staff and the beneficiary had not been satisfied with services. In fact, CRS had no professional staff; the therapists who signed the beneficiary’s file never rendered any services; and the beneficiary never received services. Evidence at trial established that the beneficiary’s identity was stolen and used by CRS and a fraudulent file-making company to bill Medicare.
Today’s sentence was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara L. McQuade; Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office Edward J. Hanko; and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the HHS Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Chicago Regional Office.
This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Catherine K. Dick and Assistant Chief Benjamin S. Singer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. It 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 Eastern District of Michigan.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,330 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $4 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.