Telemedicine company owner pleads guilty to telemedicine fraud conspiracy
Defendant is one of 26 charged in largest fraud operation ever prosecuted by Southern District of Georgia
SAVANNAH, GA: A Georgia woman who operated a telemedicine network through two companies has admitted to participation in an ever-growing healthcare and telemedicine fraud scheme.
Charlene Frame, the operator of Royal Physician Network, LLC, and Envision It Perfect, LLC, both Georgia companies, pled guilty in U.S. District Court to a charge of Conspiracy for conspiring to pay medical providers, such as physicians and nurse practitioners, in exchange for obtaining orders for durable medical equipment (DME) that would then be sold to DME providers and, ultimately, billed to Medicare, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.
The financial total for orders facilitated through this scheme is alleged in court documents to be in excess of $60 million for thousands of patient orders. Medicare beneficiaries were located in the Southern District of Georgia and elsewhere.
“Charlene Frame used her network of companies to blatantly defraud the government’s insurance safety net for seniors,” said U.S. Attorney Christine. “We will not tolerate such greed-fueled theft from these programs, and will continue to root out these despicable frauds.”
This prosecution, arising out of the related “Operation Brace Yourself” and “Operation Double Helix,” together with 25 other previously announced cases, involve the largest fraud operation in the history of the Southern District of Georgia. Those charged in this string of cases include eight physicians, two nurse practitioners, two other operators of different telemedicine companies, three brokers of patient data, and several owners of durable medical equipment companies. The Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries whose identities were used as part of the scheme are located throughout the country, including throughout the Southern District of Georgia.
The combined $480 million in fraud charged in the Southern District of Georgia is part of nationwide operations by the Department of Justice that thus far has included allegations involving billions of fraudulent claims for genetic testing, orthotic braces, pain creams, and other items.
“Frame’s fraud scheme of $60-million has put tremendous strain on our federally-subsidized health care programs and it is only a small part of a much larger operation,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “She will be held accountable for her greed and the affect it has had on our tax paying citizens, especially those who need government assistance for their health care needs.”
“Paying kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals is a dangerous and illegal practice,” said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General in Atlanta. “The OIG, in concert with our law enforcement partners, is dedicated to ensuring that patient referrals are based on sound medical advice and not financial remuneration.”
“This type of corruption involving health care fraud against Medicare has managed to defraud American taxpayers of millions upon millions of dollars,” said Resident Agent in Charge Glen M. Kessler of the U.S. Secret Service. “The U.S. Secret Service and our partners are always willing to take prompt and coordinated actions to hold these telemarketers and medical professionals responsible for placing personal greed above the good of the public, particularly in light of our nation’s current struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This investigation is ongoing. As telemedicine becomes an increasing part of our healthcare system, vigilance in ensuring that fraud and kickbacks do not usurp the legitimate practice of medicine by electronic means is more important than ever. If you are aware of any fraud or kickbacks relating to telemedicine, including COVID-19 fraud, please call the FBI hotline at 1-800-CALL-FBI.
This particular prosecution resulted from a joint investigation of multiple agencies and offices. U.S. Attorney Christine acclaimed the hard work of the investigatory team, led by FBI - Savannah, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the United States Secret Service.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan A. Porter is prosecuting this case on behalf of the United States.