South Florida healthcare professionals including doctors and nurses were detained and charged with submitting fraudulent claims to Medicare; totaling in excess of two-hundred million dollars.
Federal judge Peter Palermo set bail on most of the defendants between $100,000 and $150,000 each. A total of 33 South Florida health care professionals were arrested as part of the ongoing federal investigation.
In federal court one of the accused members of the group seemed confused, saying to Palermo “I don’t even know what I’m charged with.” Palermo told him, “You’re charged in a conspiracy to receive health care kickbacks.” Some of the defendants will face a hearing on Friday. .
Also in Miami, Federal authorities said that three people were arrested at LTC Professional Consultants and charged in a scheme to swindle the system. Authorities said that another nearby Miami based healthcare facility; Professional Homecare Solutions was involved with fraudulent billing for home health care; totaling in excess of 74 million dollars.
Another facility: Hollywood Pavilion, a psychiatric hospital, was also said to have been involved in $67 million of suspected fraudulent billing. Five people affiliated with the hospital, including its chief executive officer, were charged in this case, one of the nation’s largest strikes ever against Medicare fraud. The defendants allegedly fraudulently billed Medicare paying bribes and kickbacks to patient brokers, then creating false documents to cover their tracks.
Medicare scams involving medical equipment and physical therapy has prospered in South Florida for years, making the area a national focus for Medicare exploitation.
At a press conference on Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the case revealed an alarming trend of criminal attempts to steal billions of taxpayer dollars Holder labeled Thursday’s action against Medicare fraud one of the largest of its kind.
“The total includes over $230 million in home health care fraud, more than $100 million in mental health care fraud, and approximately $49 million in ambulance transportation fraud.
“Thanks to the outstanding work of federal authorities – and the assistance of state and local partners – as of today, most of these individuals have been arrested or surrendered,” Holder said.
“Such an act not only takes precious resources but it drives up health care costs and affects the strength of Medicare,” Holder said. “And it disproportionately victimizes some of the most vulnerable people in our society: the elderly and impoverished Americans.”
“Many of those arrested violated the sacred oath they took to be medical practitioners,” said Holder.
Holder further went on to say that the federal government was determined to be very aggressive in its ongoing crackdown on Medicare fraud.
The arrests revealed were a share of a nationwide take down of Medicare fraud suspects in Baton Rouge, La, Brooklyn, N.Y, Chicago, IL, Dallas and Houston, TX as well as Los Angeles, CA. More than 60 medical professionals were arrested in the operation and allegedly responsible for more than a total of $429 million in fraudulent claims. A federal strike force charged more than 90 people in total.
In addition to Thursday’s arrests, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius mentioned that her agency used new authority under the federal health care law to stop future payments to many of the health care providers suspected of fraud.
She unwaveringly stated that the arrests target “criminal enterprises that have been lining their pockets with funds from the Medicare trust fund.”
“We’ve taken down enterprises that in some cases have been robbing taxpayers for years,” she said.
This week’s Medicare fraud bust follows another colossal takedown in May, when officials arrested more than 100 people and charged them with defrauding the government of more than $450 million.
The consequences of a conviction for Medicare Fraud can be extremely harsh and often include incarceration and restitution. It is crucial that if one is charged with Medicare Fraud in the tri-county area (Dade, Broward & Palm Beach counties), to immediately contact an experienced Medicare Fraud attorney/ lawyer, who practices in the immediate area and who has experience in the field of Medicare Fraud to properly handle the case.
Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.
If you need an experienced attorney who is well-versed in all aspects of Medicare litigation, visit the Criminal Defense Law Firm of Michael B. Cohen, P.A. Online at www.southflalaw.com or call us at: 954-928-0059.