AUGUSTA, Ga: A federal jury on Tuesday, Dec. 11, found the owner of a Thomson, Ga., medical equipment company guilty of multiple counts of Medicare fraud and identity theft in a scheme that charged the government insurance program for items that were never provided to patients and never ordered by a physician.
Detra Wiley Pate, owner and CEO of Southern Respiratory LLC, of Thomson, Ga., was found guilty on 33 counts, including health care fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud and aggravated identity theft for crimes dating back to 2014.
The jury deliberated less than five hours. A sentencing date before Chief Judge J. Randal Hall has not yet been set. Pate faces a sentence of up to 10 years for each count of the indictment, plus an additional sentence of at least two years on the eight charges of aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment and evidence presented at trial, from 2014 through 2016, as part of the scheme, Pate submitted thousands of false claims, fabricated patient files, and falsified prescriptions from doctors for items such as heavy-duty wheelchairs while providing much cheaper standard wheelchairs to patients – and pocketing the substantial difference in cost. The evidence further showed that Pate used the money she stole from Medicare through this fraud to pay for jewelry, including a 1.5 carat diamond and a Rolex watch.
“Health care fraud, particularly that which targets the insurance system for elderly and vulnerable patients, is despicable,” said Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine. “Clearly, the jury saw the depth to which such fraud can reach in finding overwhelming evidence of guilt in this case.”
“Those who choose to defraud Medicare are stealing from federal taxpayers and those who count on Medicare for healthcare needs,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “This conviction sends a strong message that the FBI and its federal law enforcement partners are committed to investigating and prosecuting those who, for personal profit, cheat citizens out of the services they deserve.”
“Criminals like Pate devise schemes they think will lead to boundless riches while sending the bills to taxpayers,” said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Instead they face prison time and banishment from government health programs.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patricia Rhodes and Thomas Clarkson led the prosecution for the United States.