After two months trying the Esformes case, I come back to big news in health care fraud prosecutions.
Yesterday, the Department of Justice and various U.S. Attorneys offices announced prosecutions against 24 individuals involved in the sale and distribution of Durable Medical Equipment and Telemedicine.
“…one of the largest health care fraud schemes in U.S. history came to an end thanks to close collaboration and coordination between the FBI and partners including HHS-OIG and IRS-CI,” that was the statement yesterday by FBI Assistant Director Robert Johnson when announcing the prosecutions and law enforcement actions against telemedicine and DME companies and individuals.
The Department of Justice is touting the case as the largest health care fraud scheme involving telemedicine and durable medical equipment. The 24 individuals charged, include CEOs, COOs, and others associated with five telemedicine companies and dozens of durable medical equipment companies. The DOJ alleges the scheme involves over $1.2 billion in losses. In addition to the indictments, over 80 search warrants were executed in 17 federal districts.
The scheme allegedly involved the payment of illegal kickbacks and bribes by DME companies in exchange for the referral of Medicare beneficiaries by medical professionals working with fraudulent telemedicine companies for back, shoulder, wrist, and knee braces that are allegedly medically unnecessary. The DOJ further claims that scheme involved an international telemarketing network with call centers in the Philippines and throughout Latin American that lured the elderly and disabled. The DOJ claims the doctors were paid to prescribe DME without any patient interaction or with only a brief telephonic conversation with patients they had never met or seen. The charged individuals are accussed of using the proceeds of the scheme to purchase luxury items, such as automobiles, yachts, and real estate in the United States and abroad.
The enforcement actions were coordinated by the Health Care Fraud Unit of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section in conjunction with its strike force, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Districts of South Carolina, New Jersey, and the Middle District of Florida.