Thirteen people, including five doctors, have been indicted in a massive Medicare fraud scheme based out of New Orleans, the Justice Department announced Thursday.
A network of health care and medical supply companies colluded with doctors to bill Medicare for home health services and medical equipment that was later found to be either unnecessary or nonexistent over a period of seven years, from 2007 to 2014.
Three of the defendants, including Dr. Alvin Darby, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud Wednesday, and are due to be sentenced in January. (RELATED: Medicare Paid Millions For Wheelchairs For Patients Who Could Walk)
Paige Okpalobi, who directed operations at one of the medical companies, allegedly instructed the doctors to prescribe unnecessary medical equipment for their patients and to falsely certify that they qualified for home health care services, allowing the companies to fraudulently bill Medicare for millions. In another part of the operation, patient recruiters received kickbacks in return for obtaining Medicare beneficiary numbers — kickbacks laundered through another company one of the conspirators owned. (RELATED: Cardiologist Made Millions Performing Unnecessary Medical Procedures)
One of those indicted is accused of falsifying tax and employee records to conceal the scheme, while another, a registered nurse, allegedly certified performing home health services she never provided. (RELATED: Doc Admits He Put Patients Through Unnecessary Chemo In Multi-Million Dollar Fraud Scheme)
Of the $56 million in false claims filed, the defendants received a total of $50.7 million from the government.
Medicare fraud is so rampant that the government has its own Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which was instituted in 2007. Since its inception, the strike force “has charged nearly 2,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 billion,” according to the DOJ.