Tampa, FL ― U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg announced today that the Middle District of Florida (MDFL) collected $168,330,189 related to criminal and civil matters in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2022 (FY 2022). Of that amount, $103,089,821 represents total collections in criminal and civil actions. Included in this amount is $43,048,067 recovered in its locally handled cases; $17,769,638 in criminal cases and $25,278,429.11 in civil cases.
The MDFL’s Civil Division, led by Civil Chief Randy Harwell, recovered a total of $85,181,948 on behalf of federal agencies and programs in affirmative civil enforcement cases during the last fiscal year. This amount has two components. In addition to its efforts in local civil cases noted above, the district’s Civil Division also joins forces with other U.S. Attorney’s Offices and with the Department of Justice Civil Frauds Section to address fraud schemes and illegal practices extending beyond district boundaries. The MDFL’s Civil Division recovered an additional $59,903,519.32 in these jointly handled cases.
Additionally, the district’s Asset Recovery Division, led by Chief Anita Cream, working with partner agencies, forfeited $65,240,368 from criminal and civil asset forfeiture actions completed in fiscal year 2022. Forfeited assets deposited into the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund are used to restore funds to crime victims and for a variety of law enforcement purposes. For instance, in FY 2022, more than $14 million forfeited in the MDFL in this and prior years was returned to victims of the criminal offenses upon which the forfeitures were based, and approximately $3 million was shared with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The district anticipates that the vast majority of the more than $65 million forfeited in FY 2022 will be returned to crime victims.
“Every day, we work alongside our law enforcement partners, federal, state, and local agencies to enforce our nation’s laws and recover illicit money from convicted criminals who have exploited government programs through fraud and abuse,” said U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg. “We will continue to coordinate our efforts to protect taxpayer resources, help victims recover from their losses, and restore public trust.”
U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, along with the department’s litigating divisions, are responsible for enforcing and collecting civil and criminal debts owed to the U.S. and criminal debts owed to federal crime victims. The law requires defendants to pay restitution to victims of certain federal crimes who have suffered a physical injury or financial loss. While restitution is paid to the victim, criminal fines and felony assessments are paid to the department’s Crime Victims Fund, which distributes the funds collected to federal and state victim compensation and victim assistance programs.
The largest civil collections were from affirmative civil enforcement cases, in which the United States recovered government money lost to fraud or other misconduct or collected fines imposed on individuals and/or corporations for violations of federal health, safety, civil rights, or environmental laws. In addition, civil debts were collected on behalf of several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Defense Health Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, the Small Business Administration, and the Department of Education. See below for MDFL significant civil case highlights.
Significant Affirmative Civil Enforcement Cases
United States ex rel. Haight v. Physician Partners of America, et al., Case No. 8:18-civ-267 (M.D. Fla.)
Four overlapping qui tam complaints were filed against a Tampa pain management practice and alleged that the practice paid physicians based on the volume or value of the physicians’ orders for urine drug testing in violation of the Stark Law and Anti-kickback Statute. The relators also alleged that practice group performed medically unnecessary urine drug testing because the orders were not based on the individual needs of each patient. In investigating these claims over the ensuing three years, we discovered that the practice group additionally had billed Medicare for fraudulent anesthesia claims at its surgery centers and had applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan that it was not eligible to receive. Following extensive negotiations, we resolved all allegations in the qui tam complaints for $24.5 million. This settlement amount included a civil penalty in excess of $1 million imposed under FIRREA to address the PPP loan fraud allegations.
Press release: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/physician-partners-america-pay-245-million-settle-allegations-unnecessary-testing-improper
United States ex rel. Bomar v. Bayfront Medical Center, et al., Case no. 8:16-cv-3310-MSS-JSS (M.D. Fla.)
This qui tam case alleges that four area hospitals have defrauded Medicare through a complex scheme through bogus “paper” charitable contributions by the hospitals to local government organizations. These contributions are passed through the Florida Medicaid program which used them to seek matching funds from Medicare. The Medicare money was eventually paid to the hospitals and would have never been paid out, had the federal program realized the true nature of the contributions. In investigating this alleged scheme, we have discovered that many area hospitals could be engaged in the same conduct. We have settled our claims with two hospitals, finalizing a $5.5 million settlement with Naples Community Hospital in February 2022 and a $20 million settlement with the BayCare Hospital system in April 2022.
Press releases: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/florida-s-nch-healthcare-system-agrees-pay-55-million-settle-common-law-allegations
United States ex rel. Cancel v. Central Medical Systems, LLC, Case No. 6:14-civ-512-Orl-28TBS (M.D. Fla.)
We intervened in this qui tam case in 2018 in order to pursue civil fraud claims against this central Florida supplier of durable medical equipment (DME) and its principals for, among other things, billing federal health programs for DME that was not provided. Early in the case, we secured a freeze of the defendants’ assets under the Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act in light of a concern over the defendants’ circumvention of an administrative claims review process. The individual owner of the provider then filed a bankruptcy petition, which prompted litigation under a variety of provisions of the Bankruptcy Code. Eventually, the principal owner of the defendant provider, Trent Harley, was indicted and pled guilty to health care fraud offenses that overlap with the civil claims alleged in the qui tam complaint. The civil claims in the qui tam complaint were ultimately settled in January 2022 for $600,000. In 2021, Mr. Harley was sentenced to serve fifteen months in federal prison for wire fraud offenses connected to the scheme.
Press release: https://www.justice.gov/usao-mdfl/pr/central-medical-systems-llc-alan-trent-harley-and-joan-harley-agree-pay-600k-settle