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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Shell Company Operator Pleads Guilty in Multi-Million Dollar Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme

A Florida managing member of a shell company pleaded guilty today in federal court in Tampa for his role in a multi-million dollar health care fraud and money laundering scheme. 

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida, Acting Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office, and Special Agent in Charge Paul Wysopal of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office made the announcement.

Leonard Austin, 45, of Lake Worth, Florida, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida to conspiracy to commit money laundering of health care fraud proceeds.  His sentencing date will be set at a later date by the court. 

According to his plea agreement and factual proffer, from June 2010 through April 2014, Austin’s co-conspirators submitted $12 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare through three purported health clinics, Cornerstone Health Specialists of Lakeland, Florida, Summit Health Specialists P.L. of Tampa, Florida, and Coastal Health Specialists LLC of Lakeland and Melbourne, Florida.  These fraudulent claims included claims resulting from illegal kickback arrangements and claims for radiology, audiology, neurology, and cardiology services that were never rendered.  In fact, some of the services were purportedly provided to Medicare beneficiaries who actually had died before the supposed date of service. Medicare paid over $2,500,000 on the fraudulent claims. 

Austin admitted that he and his co-conspirators attempted to conceal the funds by transferring funds through bank accounts for the clinics and Austin’s shell company, BONB LLC, aka BioScan, and other entities. 

Four other defendants were indicted in this case on health care fraud and money laundering charges and are scheduled for a jury trial on April 6, 2015. An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case is being investigated by HHS-OIG and the FBI and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Christopher J. Hunter 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 2,000 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.

Press Release Number: 
Updated January 8, 2016