Office Manager And Husband Of Lansing Area Doctor Sentenced To Prison For Accepting Kickbacks And For Not Reporting To The Irs Income From Medical Marijuana Certifications
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell sentenced Mohamad Abduljaber, 50, of Okemos, Michigan to three and a half years of imprisonment on charges of receipt of health care kickback payments and falsifying an income tax return, U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles announced today.
The convictions arise from an Indictment which charged that between January 2004 and April 2011 Abduljaber conspired with his wife, Dr. Shannon Wiggins, to receive kickbacks for referring patients for electrodiagnostic testing. Abduljaber served as the office manager of his wife’s medical practice. Abduljaber also admitted signing a false tax return which did not accurately disclose cash income attributable to the billing for medical marijuana certifications. Judge Bell noted that Abduljaber’s conduct indicated a “lack of respect for the law” and that “protection of the public was very important in this matter.” Judge Bell also ordered Abduljaber to pay $285,781 in restitution to Medicaid and the IRS and to forfeit $550,000.
Last month, Judge Bell sentenced Dr. Wiggins to two years of imprisonment for the same crimes and previously sentenced the physical therapist who paid the kickback payments, Chyawan Bansil, to 13 months of imprisonment for billing insurance companies for the same electrodiagnostic testing, which he admitted he never actually performed. In total to date, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has collected $2.25 million in monetary damages on behalf of Medicare, $350,000 in restitution for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, $150,000 in forfeiture from Mr. Bansil, and approximately $400,000.00 in forfeited real property and vehicles from Dr. Wiggins.
The case against Abduljaber and Dr. Wiggins resulted from a joint investigation conducted by the Lansing Police Department, IRS-Criminal Investigation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. The kickback scheme was initially discovered by officers from the Lansing Police Department and personnel from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan who were investigating prescription drug diversion in Lansing, Michigan. After undercover Lansing police officers were referred for suspicious electrodiagnostic testing by Bansil at Dr. Wiggins’s office, federal investigators examined the medical records as well as the financial records of Mr. Bansil and confirmed that Bansil was billing for services that he did not perform. Investigators further determined that Bansil was paying Dr. Wiggins and Abduljaber illegal kickback payments to refer patients for the purported testing.
In its sentencing memorandum, the Government argued that such kickback payments caused Dr. Wiggins to increase her Medicare referrals for electrodiagnostic testing from 24 tests per year to more than 1,600 tests per year. The government also noted that, in addition to the crimes of conviction, Abduljaber was also caught on tape committing food stamp fraud by paying cash to use another person’s Bridge Card.
“The payment and receipt of illegal kickbacks distort the motives of health care professionals and cause unnecessary testing and expenses which increases everyone’s costs,” U.S. Attorney Miles said. “This office will continue to pursue criminal and civil proceedings, employ the resources of our law enforcement and private insurance partners, and protect the public against fraud. Medical practitioners who exploit patients and public or private health care insurance providers for unlawful and selfish financial gain face significant criminal charges and civil remedies. As this case demonstrates, those who attempt to defraud the system through illegal kickback arrangements will suffer the specter of incarceration, treble damages, civil penalties, forfeiture, and future exclusion from participating with Medicare and Medicaid.”
“Paying or receiving kickbacks in exchange for the referral of Medicare or Medicaid patients is illegal,” said Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General – Chicago Region. “The payment of kickbacks leads to overutilization, corruption of medical decision-making and increased program costs. Allegations of such conduct will be aggressively investigated by the OIG and our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who are unjustly enriched by these schemes are held accountable.”
“The fraud perpetuated by Mohamad Abduljaber and his wife, Dr. Shannon Wiggins, clearly shows that they put greed before the health and safety of their patients. Today’s sentence is the culmination of the diligent investigative work of the IRS-CI and our law enforcement partners to protect the public from those who commit health care fraud,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Jarod Koopman.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Raymond E. Beckering III and Adam Townshend and jointly investigated by the Lansing Police Department, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, HHS-OIG, IRS-CID, DEA, and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.