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A strategically coordinated, six-week nationwide federal law enforcement action has resulted in criminal charges against 138 defendants, including 42 doctors, nurses, and other licensed medical professionals, in 31 federal districts across the United States for their alleged participation in various health care fraud schemes that resulted in approximately $1.4 billion in alleged losses.

The enforcement action includes criminal charges against four defendants in the Southern District of California, involving more than $129 million in intended losses.

Nationwide, this action includes more than $1.1 billion in fraud committed using telemedicine, more than $29 million in COVID-19 health care fraud, more than $133 million connected to substance abuse treatment facilities, or “sober homes,” and more than $160 million connected to other health care fraud and illegal opioid distribution schemes across the country

Telemedicine Fraud Cases – The largest amount of alleged fraud loss charged in connection with the announced  – over $1.1 billion in allegedly false and fraudulent claims submitted by more than 50 criminal defendants in 11 judicial districts nationwide – relates to schemes involving telemedicine: the use of telecommunications technology to provide health care services remotely.

COVID-19 Fraud CasesNine defendants are alleged to have engaged in various health care fraud schemes designed to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the submission of over $29 million in false billings.

In the Southern District of California, Roselia Kubeck and Rosario Gonzalez pleaded guilty to having approached residents of senior complexes in El Centro and Calexico, California, who were Medicare beneficiaries, and offering COVID-19 screening tests for the residents. The defendants knew at the time that the tests would not actually test for COVID-19 but would be a general respiratory pathogens screening panel that tested for the presence of several kinds of respiratory pathogens. They also took urine samples from the Medicare beneficiaries without explaining that the urine samples were not necessary to conduct a COVID-19 test. The defendants then completed requisition forms for tests on the nasal swabs and urine samples, and inaccurately indicated on the forms that the beneficiaries needed the respiratory tests because they were suffering from acute respiratory infections and needed urine tests because the beneficiaries were long-term users of opiates or had urinary tract infections. The laboratories that performed the tests subsequently submitted inaccurate and medically unnecessary claims to Medicare based on the inaccurate diagnoses that the defendants put on the requisition forms.

Sober Homes CasesThe sober homes cases are announced on the one-year anniversary of the first ever national sober homes initiative in 2020, which included charges against more than a dozen criminal defendants in connection with more than $845 million of allegedly false and fraudulent claims for tests and treatments for vulnerable patients seeking treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction. The over $133 million in false and fraudulent claims that are additionally alleged in cases just  announced reflect the continued effort by the National Rapid Response Strike Force and the Health Care Fraud Unit’s Los Angeles Strike Force, with the participation of the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Central District of California and the Southern District of Florida, to prosecute those who participated in illegal kickback and bribery schemes involving the referral of patients to substance abuse treatment facilities; those patients could be subjected to medically unnecessary drug testing – often billing thousands of dollars for a single test – and therapy sessions that frequently were not provided, and which resulted in millions of dollars of false and fraudulent claims being submitted to private insurers.

Cases Involving the Illegal Prescription and/or Distribution of Opioids and Cases Involving Traditional Health Care Fraud Schemes

In the Southern District of California, Ronald Charles Green Jr. and Melinda Elizabeth Green were charged with conspiring to defraud TRICARE and Medicare out of more than $129 million. In connection with a compounding pharmacy fraud, the defendants allegedly engaged in a scheme involving the submission of false and fraudulent claims to TRICARE for expensive and medically unnecessary pain creams, scar creams and multi-vitamins, which were billed through compound pharmacies. Thereafter, the defendants allegedly launched multiple durable medical equipment companies, and carried out a scheme to defraud Medicare through the submission of false and fraudulent claims for expensive durable medical equipment which were induced through a system of illegal kickbacks. Out of the $129 million in claims, Medicare paid the defendants’ companies more than $69 million.

Prior to the charges announced as part of the nationwide enforcement action and since its inception in March 2007, the Health Care Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,600 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for approximately $23 billion.