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107 charged with Medicare fraud; bogus claims hit $455 million

May 02, 2012|By Richard A. Serrano
  • Federal agents in Miami seize computers belonging to some of those caught up in a national probe of Medicare fraud.
Federal agents in Miami seize computers belonging to some of those caught… (Alan Diaz / Associated Press )

This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

WASHINGTON — Doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers from around the nation – 107 in all – were  charged Wednesday in what federal officials in Washington called a “nationwide takedown” against medical professionals they said fraudulently billed Medicare out of nearly half a billion dollars in bogus claims.

The sweep of arrests in seven major cities, where some $455 million was allegedly fraudulently billed, marked the highest amount of false claims in a single raid in the history of the federal strike force. The strike force was convened to combat rising fraud in the medical industry; the Obama administration said the scope of the investigation means that it is continuing to get tough on those preying on the Medicare assistance system during the recession.

In addition, federal Health and Human Services officials suspended or took other administrative actions against 52 medical providers after analyzing billing requests and finding additional “credible allegations of fraud.”

In Los Angeles, eight people, including two doctors, were charged with fraudulently billing about $20 million for services never provided. Officials said the Los Angeles defendants billed Medicare for power wheelchairs that were never purchased, and feeding tubes for patients who never required them.

Further, they said, one healthcare group paid recruiters “kickbacks” to go out and find “patients” who were perfectly fine, and then have doctors knowingly write phony prescriptions for them.

One case was handled in Chicago, where a defendant was charged for his alleged role in scheming to submit about $1 million in false Medicare billings for psychotherapy services.

Of the 107 defendants charged, 87 were arrested Wednesday. Federal agents were either still looking for the other 20, or were expecting them to voluntarily surrender.

The other cities were Miami, Tampa, Fla.; Houston; Baton Rouge, La.; and Detroit.

[For the record, 2:43 p.m., May 2: An earlier version of this story, along with the headline, incorrectly said that 108 people were charged. Federal authorities later revised the number of those charged.]


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