Justice Department Announces Nationwide Coordinated Law Enforcement Action to Combat Health Care-Related COVID-19 Fraud
Criminal Charges Brought Against Owners and Executives of Medical Businesses, Physicians, Marketers, and Manufacturers of Fake COVID-19 Vaccination Record Cards Include Recent Cases in District of New Jersey
NEWARK, N.J. –The Department of Justice announced criminal charges against 21 defendants in nine federal districts across the United States for their alleged participation in various health care related fraud schemes that exploited the COVID-19 pandemic. These cases allegedly resulted in over $149 million in COVID-19-related false billings to federal programs and theft from federally-funded pandemic assistance programs. In connection with the enforcement action, the department seized over $8 million in cash and other fraud proceeds.
“The Department of Justice’s Health Care Fraud Unit and our partners are dedicated to rooting out schemes that have exploited the pandemic,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said.
“Billions of dollars have been spent by the federal government to help individuals and their companies with the economic impact of the COVID-19 epidemic,” U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger, District of New Jersey, said. “Unfortunately, unscrupulous people have stolen millions of dollars through a variety of schemes. We will continue to bring cases to fight this kind of fraud.”
“This COVID-19 health care fraud enforcement action involves extraordinary efforts to prosecute some of the largest and most wide-ranging pandemic frauds detected to date,” Director for COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Kevin Chambers said.
The April 20, 2022, announcement builds on the success of the May 2021 COVID-19 Enforcement Action and involves the prosecution of various COVID-19 health care fraud schemes.
In the District of New Jersey:
- Abid Syed, Taquir Din, Tamer Mohamed, Abdul Rauf, Tauquir Khan, and Nisim Davydov, all of New Jersey, are charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute for their roles in an alleged scheme to defraud Medicare by paying illegal kickbacks and bribes of over $250,000 for laboratory tests for COVID-19 pathogen tests. Syed and Din owned and controlled Metpath, a clinical laboratory in Parsippany, New Jersey, which performed and billed Medicare for COVID-19 diagnostic testing. Khan, Mohamed, and Davydov were marketers who supplied thousands of COVID-19 diagnostic tests to Metpath and who received kickbacks and bribes from Syed and Din for doing so. The complaint alleges that Metpath tried to conceal its kickback payments to the marketers through shell companies set up and controlled by Rauf. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney DeNae Thomas of the Health Care Fraud Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.
- Lisa Hammell, 39, of Turnersville, New Jersey, an employee of the U.S. Postal Service, was charged by indictment with an alleged conspiracy to defraud the United States and fraud in connection with identification documents for her role in creating and distributing to others fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination record cards. Beginning in or around March 2021, Hammell allegedly began selling fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination record cards that she created by designing a COVID-19 vaccination record card and printing dozens of fraudulent cards while working at a post office. Hammell allegedly sold at least 400 fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards to unvaccinated people. As alleged in the indictment, the goal of the conspiracy was to undermine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s function of administering the COVID-19 vaccination program and ensuring that genuine COVID-19 vaccination cards containing accurate information are distributed to vaccine recipients only by authorized providers. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Kelly M. Lyons and Darren C. Halverson of the Newark Strike Force.
The enforcement actions were led and coordinated by Assistant Chief Jacob Foster and Trial Attorney D. Keith Clouser of the National Rapid Response Strike Force, and Assistant Chief Justin Woodard of the Health Care Fraud Unit’s Gulf Coast Strike Force in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The Fraud Section’s National Rapid Response Strike Force and the Health Care Fraud Unit’s Strike Forces (SF) in Brooklyn, the Gulf Coast, Miami, Los Angeles, and Newark, as well as the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the District of Maryland, District of New Jersey, District of Utah, Northern District of California, and Western District of Tennessee are prosecuting these cases. Descriptions of each case involved in this enforcement action are available on the department’s website at: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/health-care-fraud-unit/case-summaries.
In addition to the FBI, HHS-OIG, and CPI/CMS, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Department of Defense Office of Inspector General; Department of the Interior Office of the Inspector General; Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General; Food and Drug Administration Office of the Inspector General; Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General; and other federal and local law enforcement agencies participated in the law enforcement action.
The Fraud Section leads the Health Care Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Health Care Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 federal districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for nearly $19 billion. In addition, the CMS, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
The Department of Justice needs the public’s assistance in remaining vigilant and reporting suspected fraudulent activity. To report suspected fraud, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) at (866) 720-5721 or file an online complaint at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/webform/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form. Complaints filed will be reviewed at the NCDF and referred to federal, state, local, or international law enforcement or regulatory agencies for investigation.
An indictment, complaint, or information is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.