Leaders Of Jacksonville Armed Drug Trafficking Organization Sentenced To 25 Years In Federal Prison, Ten Other Members Also Sentenced
Tampa ― U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg announced today that the Middle District of Florida (MDFL) has collected $78,043,065 related to local criminal and civil matters in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2023 (FY 2023). Of this amount, $36,767,863 was collected in criminal cases and $28,641,442 was collected in civil actions.
The MDFL’s Civil Division, led by Civil Chief Randy Harwell, recovered a total of $41,230,830 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 $12,589,388 in these jointly handled cases.
“We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute those who seek to illegally exploit federal government programs by fraudulent means,” said U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg. “The funds recovered in the previous fiscal year will help victims recover from their losses and assist law enforcement in pursuing justice.”
U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, along with the Department’s litigation 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 MDFL’s Asset Recovery Division, led by Chief Anita Cream, recovered a total of $55,930,305. This amount has two components―criminal monetary penalties and forfeiture. First, in addition to the $36,767,863 in criminal monetary penalties collected in cases prosecuted by the District, the Asset Recovery Division worked with other U.S. Attorney’s Offices and components of the Department of Justice to collect an additional $44,372 in criminal monetary penalties pursued jointly by these offices.
Additionally, the District’s Asset Recovery Division, working with partner agencies, forfeited $19,118,070 from criminal and civil asset forfeiture actions in FY 2023. For instance, in FY 2023, almost $44 million forfeited in the MDFL was returned to victims of the criminal offenses, and more than $3 million was shared with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. 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.
Significant Affirmative Civil Enforcement Cases
United States ex rel. Sanchez v. Smart Pharmacy, et al., Case no. 3:14cv1493 (M.D. Fla.). The United States intervened in two related qui tam cases in June 2018 and litigated the government’s claims against a large Jacksonville area compounding pharmacy, Smart Pharmacy, and one of its principal owners, Gregory Balotin, claiming that the pharmacy billed the Tricare program for millions of dollars in reimbursement for medically unnecessary pain creams. Specifically, the intervenor complaint alleged the pharmacy created compounded creams using an anti-psychotic agent, Ariprazole, for no medical purpose and solely to boost reimbursement. The complaint also alleged that the pharmacy routinely waived patient co-payments, without regard to patient need, to improperly incentivize prescriptions for the unnecessary pain creams. In June 2023, we announced a settlement of all claims in exchange for $7.4 million.
United States ex rel. Bomar v. Bayfront HMA Medical Center, et al., Case no. 8:16cv3310 (M.D. Fla.).
An investigation arising from this qui tam case determined that the Lakeland Regional Medical Center (LRMC) had defrauded the Florida Medicaid program through a complex scheme involving sham donations to local government organizations. These donations increased Medicaid payments to LRMC, by freeing up funds for the local government to make payments to the State as the state share of Medicaid payments to LRMC. The state share was “matched” by the federal government before being returned to LRMC as Medicaid payments. Through this scheme, Medicaid payments LRMC received were thus funded by the federal government and LRMC’s own donations, in violation of the prohibition on non-bona fide donations. In March 2023, LRMC agreed to pay $4 million to resolve these allegations.
United States ex rel. Improta v. Ocenture, Case no. 3:19cv358 (M.D. Fla.).
The United States intervened in this qui tam case that alleged a kickback scheme arising from genetic testing services. The complaint alleged that Ocenture and a subsidiary company, Carelumina, solicited genetic testing samples from Medicare beneficiaries directly and through marketers. Ocenture and Carelumina then paid physicians to falsely attest that the genetic testing was medically necessary and arranged for laboratories to process the tests and receive reimbursement from Medicare, with a portion of that reimbursement being paid to Ocenture and Carelumina. In December 2022, we announced a settlement of all claims in return for $3 million.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Office of Inspector General accused a Jacksonville area company, SMC Systems, Inc. d/b/a Skyetec, of violating the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 through a scheme whereby Skyetec would falsely certify that newly constructed homes met certain energy efficiency requirements and qualified for EPA’s “Energy Star” rating. The certifications were alleged to have been given to homes in many instances where Skyetec had performed incomplete tests on homes, or had run no tests at all. In September 2023, Skyetec agreed to settle our claims for $2.35 million.
United States ex rel. Graham, et al. v. Florida Cardiology, P.A., et al., Case no. 6:18cv1444 (M.D. Fla.)
The United States intervened in this qui tam case in June 2022, and alleged that an Orlando area cardiology practice, Florida Cardiology, P.A., and 10 of its cardiologists―Sandeep Bajaj, Abbas Ali, Karan Reddy, Claudio Manubens, Milan Kothari, Saroj Tampira, Sayed Hussain, Raviprasad Subraya, Harish Patil, and Edwin Martinez―defrauded Medicare through a variety of schemes, including the submission of false claims for more interventional stints that were actually inserted into patients, claims for radiofrequency ablations that were not performed by the billing provider and in some instances that were not performed by a qualifying provider, and claims for services performed while the billing provider was outside of the country. In February 2023, the defendants agreed to settle all claims in the case in exchange for $2 million.