Menu Close

The Department of Justice announced criminal charges against 21 defendants in nine federal districts across the United States for their alleged participation in various health care related fraud schemes that exploited the COVID-19 pandemic. These cases allegedly resulted in over $149 million in COVID-19-related false billings to federal programs and theft from federally-funded pandemic assistance programs. In connection with the enforcement action, the department seized over $8 million in cash and other fraud proceeds.

The names of those involved and summaries of each case in the enforcement action are available on the department’s website.This announcement builds on the success of the May 2021 COVID-19 Enforcement Action and involves the prosecution of various COVID-19 health care fraud schemes.

Several cases involve defendants who allegedly offered COVID-19 testing to induce patients to provide their personal identifying information and a saliva or blood sample. The defendants are alleged to have then used the information and samples to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for unrelated, medically unnecessary, and far more expensive tests or services. In one such scheme in the Central District of California, two owners of a clinical laboratory were charged with a health care fraud, kickback, and money laundering scheme that involved the fraudulent billing of over $214 million for laboratory tests, over $125 million of which allegedly involved fraudulent claims during the pandemic for COVID-19 and respiratory pathogen tests. In two separate cases in the District of Maryland and the Eastern District of New York, owners of medical clinics allegedly obtained confidential information from patients seeking COVID-19 testing at drive-thru testing sites and then submitted fraudulent claims for lengthy office visits with the patients that did not, in fact, occur.

The proceeds of these fraudulent schemes were allegedly laundered through shell corporations in the United States, transferred to foreign countries, and used to purchase real estate and luxury items.

In another type of COVID-19 health care fraud, defendants allegedly exploited policies that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) put in place to enable increased access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Southern District of Florida, one medical professional was charged with a health care fraud, wire fraud, and kickback scheme that allegedly involved billing for sham telemedicine encounters that did not occur and agreeing to order unnecessary genetic testing in exchange for access to telehealth patients. Late last year, one defendant previously was sentenced to 82 months in prison in connection with this scheme.

Charges were also filed against manufacturers and distributors of fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards who, according to the allegations, intentionally sought to obstruct the HHS and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their efforts to administer the nationwide vaccination program and provide Americans with accurate proof of vaccination. For example, in the Northern District of California, three additional defendants were charged in a scheme to sell homeoprophylaxis immunizations for COVID-19 and falsify COVID-19 vaccination record cards to make it appear that customers received government-authorized vaccines. One defendant allegedly misused her position as the Director of Pharmacy at a northern California hospital to obtain real lot numbers for the Moderna vaccine that were then used to falsify COVID-19 vaccination record cards.

Another defendant in the Northern District of California pleaded guilty to the scheme in April 2022. U.S. Attorney Hinds described additional schemes being prosecuted in the Northern District of California in a video posted here.

In addition, in a separate case in the Western District of Washington, one manufacturer was charged in the multistate distribution of fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards after allegedly telling an undercover federal agent that “until I get caught and go to jail, [expletive] it I’m taking the money, ha! I don’t care.”  

Further, the Center for Program Integrity, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CPI/CMS) separately announced that it has taken an additional 28 administrative actions against providers for their alleged involvement in fraud, waste, and abuse schemes related to the delivery of care for COVID-19, as well as schemes that capitalize upon the public health emergency.