United States Files Lawsuit Against Jacksonville-Based Ambulance Company
Jacksonville, Florida B United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces today that the United States has formally filed a lawsuit against Liberty Ambulance Services, Inc., a Jacksonville-based ambulance company. This lawsuit is brought pursuant to the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Statute.
In its complaint, the government describes a 10-year scheme in which Liberty Ambulance deliberately and knowingly submitted false claims to federally subsidized healthcare programs. The complaint alleges that Liberty was not only acutely aware that false claims were being submitted, but also directed that these false claims be submitted so as to maximize reimbursement. Specific training documents and manuals that Liberty Ambulance used to train its employees to falsify records are attached to the complaint. The government alleges that directives from management resulted in a culture of Liberty knowingly submitting false statements to justify medically unnecessary ambulance transports.
In addition to contending that Liberty Ambulance submitted false claims to the government, the complaint also alleges that Liberty Ambulance engaged in a systematic kickback scheme to further maximize its reimbursement from the federal government. Liberty Ambulance, the complaint alleges, has a policy and practice of offering commercially unreasonable rates to private payors – such as hospitals, nursing homes, and the like – but not offering these same discounts and rates to the government. Liberty Ambulance offers these discounts to the private payors so that they will then provide Liberty Ambulance with exclusive access to their federal government subsidized patient population. In all, through the efforts of Liberty Ambulance, the government alleges that more than $28 million in claims were submitted to the federal healthcare programs. The vast majority of these claims were medically unnecessary, predicated on false statements, and should not have been reimbursable.
This lawsuit was originally filed under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by Shawn Pelletier, a former employee at Liberty Ambulance. He, too, is a party to the lawsuit filed today.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of Personnel Management. It is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Jason Mehta.
The lawsuit contains allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.