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- From: Born2beMhong <truelove_neverend@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 29 Jul 2009 12:44:08 -0700 (PDT)
Dozens arrested in Medicare fraud busts across US
Bookmarks Print By KELLI KENNEDY, Associated Press Writer Kelli
Kennedy, Associated Press Writer – 34 mins ago
MIAMI – Federal authorities arrested more than 30 suspects, including
doctors, and were seeking others in a major Medicare fraud bust
Wednesday in New York, Louisiana, Boston and Houston, targeting scams
such as "arthritis kits" — expensive braces that many patients never
More than 200 agents worked on the $16 million bust that included 12
search warrants at health care businesses and homes across the Houston
area, where the bulk of the arrests were made.
Federal authorities say those businesses were giving patients
"arthritis kits," which were nothing more than expensive orthotics
that included knee and shoulder braces and heating pads. Patients told
authorities they were unnecessary and many never even received them.
But health care clinic owners billed between $3,000 to $4,000 for each
Houston's other scam involved billing Medicare for thousands of
dollars worth of liquid food like Ensure for patients who can't eat
solid food. Authorities said clinic owners never distributed the food
to patients. In some cases, clinic owners billed patients who were
dead when they allegedly received the items.
It's the third major sweep since Attorney General Eric Holder, Health
and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced in May they
were adding millions of dollars and dozens of agents to combat a
problem that costs the U.S. billions each year.
Using about a dozen agents in targeted cities, including Miami, the
Medicare Fraud Strike Force, has recovered $371 million in false
Medicare claims and charged 145 people across the country in just two
Two shocked female employees arriving for work Wednesday morning at
Memorial Medical Supply in a strip mall in southwest Houston were met
by federal agents. Authorities confiscated paperwork and a computer.
Owners of the business did not respond to calls from the Associated
The suspects arrested Wednesday in Houston will make court appearances
Thursday morning. Suspects in Boston, New York and Louisiana were to
have first appearances later Wednesday.
The first strike force started in 2007 in Miami, a city authorities
say is responsible for more than $3 billion a year in Medicare fraud.
Clinic owners there would bill Medicare dozens of times for the same
wheelchair, while never giving the medical equipment to patients.
The problems have become more complex since then.
Officials say the suspects have moved into more sophisticated scams
including home health care, physical therapy and infusion drugs.
They've even started tapping into Medicaid Advantage, which allows the
elderly and disabled to get benefits through private health insurers.
The plans receive a government subsidy and generally offer more
benefits than traditional Medicare.
Federal authorities say Miami residents are also moving on to other
cities, bringing their scams with them.
Strike force teams, each led by a federal prosecutor and a handful of
agents, were started in Los Angeles, Detroit, Houston in the past
Since 2007, strike forces in Miami, Detroit and Los Angeles have
indicted more than 293 suspects and organizations that collectively
have billed the Medicare program for more than $674 million.
Agencies participating in the busts Wednesday included the FBI, the
HHS Office of the Inspector General, the Drug Enforcement
Administration and the Texas Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control
Along with issuing indictments, authorities freeze bank accounts and
seize everything from Rolls Royce's to million dollar homes purchased
with funds stolen from Medicare.
Suspects are being charged not just with health care fraud, but all
relevant conduct. That means average prison sentences 50 percent more
than the overall national average sentence in federal health care
fraud cases in 2008.
While authorities are gratified by the arrests, the program's purpose
is more than punitive. It's also about deterrence.
Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden says the interagency
partnership is unprecedented in authorities' ability to track Medicare
fraud "as it's happening, using real-time data analysis of Medicare
In the past, authorities have struggled to catch up with fast-moving
crooks. By the time local authorities are alerted to potential fraud,
it's already been committed.
"We are also working together across the federal government on
important new innovations in the way we do business on the front end,
to try and prevent crime like this from happening in the first place,"
said Bill Corr, Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Associated Press Writer Arelis Hernandez in Houston contributed to
On the Net:
(This version CORRECTS Clarifies more than 30 were arrested, others
being sought; corrects prison sentences 50 percent higher under task
force, ADDS comment from Attorney General. Moving on general news and
financial services. AP Video.)
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