Georgia Man Admits Role in $127 Million Health Care Fraud and Kickback Scheme
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey
NEWARK, N.J. – A Georgia man and operator of a marketing company today admitted his role in conspiracies to commit health care fraud and to pay and receive illegal kickbacks, Attorney for the United States Vikas Khanna announced.
Nicco Romanowski, 31, of Roswell, Georgia, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in Newark federal court to an information charging him with conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback statute and conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From June 2017 through May 2019, Romanowski participated in a scheme with durable medical equipment (DME) companies, telemedicine companies, and doctors to submit false claims to health care benefit programs, including Medicare and TRICARE, based on a circular scheme of kickbacks and bribes. Romanowski operated a marketing company though which he and his conspirators identified Medicare and TRICARE beneficiaries to target for DME. Employees of the company called the beneficiaries to pressure them to agree to accept DME, frequently consisting of back, shoulder, and knee braces. Romanowski and his conspirators paid the company’s employees commissions, bonuses, and incentives to encourage them to convince as many beneficiaries as possible to accept DME, regardless of medical necessity.
Romanowski and his company paid kickbacks to telemedicine companies, which in turn paid kickbacks to doctors, to obtain doctor’s orders for the DME. The doctors paid by the telemedicine companies signed the orders regardless of medical necessity, often without ever speaking to the patient. Romanowski and his business partner, Eric Karlewicz, then steered the doctor’s orders to DME suppliers around the country, with which Romanowski and his company had additional kickback arrangements. The DME companies submitted claims for reimbursement to health care benefit programs including Medicare and TRICARE, and thereafter sent a portion of the proceeds to Romanowski and his company as payment for the doctor’s orders generated through the conspiracy. The company received more than $63 million from DME suppliers in exchange for the referrals.
In total, Romanowski and his conspirators caused the submission of false and fraudulent claims to health care benefit programs totaling more than $127 million for DME. Karlewicz previously pleaded guilty to an information charging conspiracy to violate the anti-kickback statute and conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
The kickback conspiracy charge is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison, and the health care fraud conspiracy charge is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison, along with fines, restitution, and penalties as to both counts. Both charges are punishable by a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest. Sentencing is scheduled for May 21, 2024.
Attorney for the United States Khanna credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark; special agents of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Naomi Gruchacz; and special agents of the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Northeast Field Office, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Brian J. Solecki, with the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine M. Romano of the Health Care Fraud Unit and Senior Trial Counsel Barbara Ward of the Asset Recovery and Money Laundering Unit in Newark.
Updated December 20, 2023
Press Release Number: 23-375
Health Care Fraud