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Press Release

Man Charged for Over $70M Medicare Fraud Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Tampa, FL – An indictment was unsealed in Tampa last week charging a Mississippi man for his alleged role in an over $70 million fraud scheme involving the payment of kickbacks and bribes to obtain doctors’ orders for medically unnecessary durable medical equipment (DME).

Joel Rufus French, 46, of Amory, made his initial appearance on April 11 in Oxford, Mississippi.

According to court documents, French allegedly managed multiple DME companies without disclosing his role to Medicare. He and his co-conspirators allegedly used the DME companies to bill Medicare for orthotic braces that were obtained using doctors’ orders that were procured through illegal kickbacks and bribes, medically unnecessary, not provided as billed, and ineligible for Medicare reimbursement. French also allegedly obtained Medicare beneficiary information and paid kickbacks and bribes for doctors’ orders for DME. French allegedly generated and sold doctors’ orders for orthotic braces to suppliers and brokers in exchange for millions in kickbacks and bribes. Finally, French is alleged to have participated in a scheme to launder certain proceeds of his schemes.

French is charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay and receive illegal health care kickbacks, conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted, French faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud count, as well as on the conspiracy to commit money laundering count. French faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on the conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay and receive illegal health care kickbacks count.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg for the Middle District of Florida; Assistant Director Michael D. Nordwall of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division; and Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Christian J. Schrank of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) made the announcement.

The FBI Tampa Field Office and HHS-OIG are investigating the case.

Trial Attorney Catherine Wagner of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Peresie for the Middle District of Florida are prosecuting the case.

The Fraud Section leads the Criminal Division’s efforts to combat health care fraud through the Health Care Fraud Strike Force Program. Since March 2007, this program, currently comprised of nine strike forces operating in 27 federal districts, has charged more than 5,400 defendants who collectively have billed federal health care programs and private insurers more than $27 billion. In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to hold providers accountable for their involvement in health care fraud schemes. More information can be found at

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Updated April 16, 2024

Health Care Fraud