Doctor and Wife Admit Genetic Testing Kickback and Bribery Scheme
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey
TRENTON, N.J. – A Pennsylvania doctor and his wife have admitted their roles in schemes to solicit and receive kickbacks and bribes in exchange for ordering genetic tests, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.
Yitzchok “Barry” Kurtzer, 63, and his wife, Robin Kurtzer, 62, both of Monsey, New York, pleaded guilty this week before U.S. District Judge Zahid N. Quraishi in Trenton to an indictment charging them with conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute. Two of Barry Kurtzer’s employees, Amber Harris and Shanelyn Kennedy, have each pleaded guilty for their roles in the kickback scheme, and Dr. Lee Besen and Kimberly Schmidt have also each pleaded guilty for a related cash-for-genetic tests scheme. Sentencings for each of those defendants is pending.
“Patients trust their doctors because those doctors swear to an oath to do no harm,” FBI – Newark Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy said. “Ripping off the federal government may not have a direct impact on the patient. It does, however, erode the faith we all have in the healthcare industry, and causes costs to go up for us all. Criminals forget there is a paper trail, and our job in the FBI is to follow it until we catch the culprit.”
“When patients visit their doctor, they expect medical decisions to be made in the best interest of their health,” Tammy Tomlins, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Newark Field Office, said. “These defendants allowed greed to become a part of their medical decision making which the IRS and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate.”
“Kickbacks impose hidden costs on the health care system and compromise medical decision-making,” Maureen R. Dixon, Special Agent in Charge with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, said. “We take allegations of kickbacks and bribery seriously, and today’s guilty pleas reflect our commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure the integrity of federal health care programs."
According to documents filed in this case and made in Court:
Barry Kurtzer was a primary care physician with offices in the Scranton, Pennsylvania, area. Robin Kurtzer helped manage those offices. Beginning in 2018, Barry Kurtzer and Robin Kurtzer solicited and received monthly cash kickbacks and bribes in exchange for collecting DNA samples from Medicare patients and sending them for genetic tests to clinical laboratories in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Kurtzers used their employees in the scheme, including Harris and Kennedy, who each helped collect the DNA swabs in exchange for payments to them. The cash kickbacks ranged up to $5,000, and the Kurtzers typically accepted the cash in one of Barry Kurtzer’s offices, at times behind locked doors. At one point, the Kurtzers complained that they were not getting paid enough and negotiated for higher kickbacks and bribes.
As a result of these schemes, Medicare was billed over $1.3 million for tests generated from Barry Kurtzer’s practice.
The charge of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison, and a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest. Sentencing is scheduled for March 28, 2024.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark; IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Tammy Tomlins in Newark; and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Philadelphia Regional Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Maureen R. Dixon, with the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked the FBI Scranton Field Office, FBI Philadelphia Division, and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office for their assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys George L. Brandley and Katherine Romano of the Health Care Fraud Unit.
Updated November 22, 2023
Press Release Number: 23-345
Health Care Fraud