Sixth Individual Pleads Guilty for Role in $14.5 Million Medicare Home Health Care Fraud Scheme
Former Patient Recruiter/Clinic Owner Pleads Guilty to Paying Kickbacks and Billing Medicare for Services That Were Never Performed or Medically Unnecessary
WASHINGTON – Detroit-area resident Christopher Collins pleaded guilty today for his participation in a $14.5 million fraudulent Medicare home health care scheme, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced.
Collins, 39, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood in the Eastern District of Michigan to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. At sentencing, scheduled for Sept. 23, 2010, Collins faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Collins was originally indicted on Jan. 14, 2010, with 12 other individuals in connection with the Medicare home health care scheme. Collins is the sixth individual charged in the scheme to plead guilty.
Collins admitted in court documents that he was responsible for submitting or causing the submission of approximately $6.96 million in false or fraudulent claims to the Medicare program between August 2007 and October 2009.
According to the plea documents, in the late spring or early summer of 2007, Collins was hired by Muhammad Shahab as a nurse to work at Patient Choice Home Healthcare Inc. Patient Choice purported to provide home health services, including physical and occupational therapy services, to Medicare beneficiaries, which were then billed to Medicare. Collins admitted that he offered to become a beneficiary recruiter for Shahab and Patient Choice. According to plea documents, Collins solicited Medicare beneficiaries for Shahab and Patient Choice and offered them cash kickbacks in exchange for their Medicare patient information and signatures on medical documents. Collins admitted that he knew the beneficiaries he recruited were not homebound nor did they need physical therapy services. Collins also admitted in court papers that he knew Patient Choice used the beneficiaries’ Medicare information to bill Medicare for unperformed or medically unnecessary physical therapy.
According to court documents, in June 2008, Shahab helped finance and establish All American Home Care Inc. All American was owned at various times by Hassan Akhtar and Shahab. Beginning in April 2009, All American was owned by Collins. Collins admitted that he became the exclusive beneficiary recruiter at All American, recruiting hundreds of patients to the home health agency through the payment of cash kickbacks in exchange for their Medicare information and signature on medical documents. Collins admitted that All American billed Medicare for physical therapy services that were either not rendered or not medically necessary.
Shahab and Akhtar were originally charged with Collins in the January 2010 indictment. Shahab and four other individuals have pleaded guilty for their participation in the Medicare home health scheme. An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Today’s result was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara L. McQuade; Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the HHS Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Chicago Regional Office.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant Chief John K. Neal and Trial Attorney Gejaa T. Gobena of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case 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 their inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in seven districts have obtained indictments of more than 560 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for approximately $1.2 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.