Doctor’s Employee Admits Role in Genetic Testing Kickback and Bribery Scheme
TRENTON, N.J. – A Pennsylvania woman today admitted participating in a conspiracy to receive bribes and kickbacks in exchange for ordering genetic tests, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Kimberly Schmidt, 46, of Moscow, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson to an information charging her with one count of conspiring to violate the anti-kickback statute.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Schmidt worked for Lee Besen, a primary care physician with a medical office in Peckville, Pennsylvania. From December 2018, Besen and Schmidt accepted 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 cash kickbacks typically ranged from $500 to $1,500, and Besen typically accepted the cash inside his medical office.
When Besen did not receive his kickback and bribe payments, the volume of genetic tests he ordered dipped. But when those payments flowed to Besen, he increased that volume because, as Besen said in a recorded conversation, “Greenbacks speak.” Besen enlisted Schmidt to help him with the scheme by preparing paperwork for the genetic tests. In turn, Schmidt received kickbacks and bribes that were calculated based on the volume of genetic tests that Besen generated.
Even as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic substantially reduced in-patient visits, Besen continued participating in the scheme because, as he was recorded saying, he wanted “greenbacks” to pay for his “pool house.”
As a result of the scheme, Medicare paid approximately $350,374 for genetic tests generated from Besen’s medical practice.
Conspiracy to violate the federal anti-kickback statute is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss derived from the offense, whichever is greater. Sentencing is scheduled for March 16, 2021.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark; IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael Montanez 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 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. Attorney Joshua L. Haber of the Health Care Fraud Unit and Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal.
The charges against and allegations in the information pertaining to Besen are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.