NEWARK, N.J. – A North Carolina woman today admitted her role in a health care fraud conspiracy in which she paid for doctors’ orders for durable medical equipment (DME), namely orthotic braces, Attorney for the United States Vikas Khanna announced.
Ircania Vargas, 50, of Charlotte, North Carolina, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty to an information charging her with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Vargas owned and operated various entities in New Jersey, through which she obtained doctors’ orders for DME. From December 2017 through May 2019, Vargas agreed to pay an individual and others a set amount for each DME order for a back, knee, shoulder or ankle brace provided to her DME supply companies. Vargas then billed Medicare for the DME orders that she obtained in exchange for kickbacks. Vargas observed indicators that these DME orders were not medically necessary, in part because Medicare beneficiaries would frequently call to complain that they had not ordered the DME that they received. To disguise the scheme, Vargas put her companies in the names of nominee owners, including her sisters and a friend. Vargas also received sham invoices which indicated that her companies had performed “marketing services” for an individual, when in reality, the invoices were for kickback payments for the purchase of DME orders. Vargas’s scheme resulted in an actual loss to Medicare of at least $5.5 million.
Conspiracy to commit health care fraud carries a maximum potential punishment of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 12, 2023.
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; and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Naomi Gruchacz, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Emma Spiro of the Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.