91 charged in Medicare fraud scheme

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A federal Medicare Fraud Strike Force has brought charges against 91 people in seven cities — including doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals — in suspected Medicare fraud schemes that bilked the government of more than $429 million in false billings.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in announcing the charges Thursday, said dozens of those named in the cases already had been arrested or had surrendered to authorities as indictments were unsealed across the country.

The indictments, they said, charge more than $230 million in home health care fraud; more than $100 million in mental health care fraud; more than $49 million in ambulance transportation fraud; and $50 million in other frauds.

“Today’s enforcement actions reveal an alarming and unacceptable trend of individuals attempting to exploit federal health care programs to steal billions in taxpayer dollars for personal gain,” said Mr. Holder. “Such activities not only siphon precious taxpayer resources, drive up health care costs and jeopardize the strength of the Medicare program — they also disproportionately victimize the most vulnerable members of society, including elderly, disabled and impoverished Americans.”

Ms. Sebelius said the arrests had “put criminals on notice that we are cracking down hard on people who want to steal from Medicare.”

The charges targeted 33 in Miami; 16 in Los Angeles; 14 in Dallas; seven in Houston; 15 in Brooklyn; four in Baton Rouge, La.; and two in Chicago.

The joint Justice Department and Health and Human Services (HHS) Medicare strike force is a multiagency team of federal, state and local investigators and prosecutors aimed at combating Medicare fraud through the use of data analysis techniques. More than 500 law enforcement agents from the FBI, HHS, multiple Medicaid fraud control units, and other state and local law enforcement agencies participated in the latest arrests.

Those named in the indictments are charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, violations of anti-kickback statutes and money laundering. They are accused of participating in schemes to submit claims to Medicare for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided.

Since its inception in March 2007, strike force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,480 defendants who are accused of collectively billing Medicare falsely for more than $4.8 billion.

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