Collectively, the executives, business owners and medical professionals involved in the conspiracy are accused of causing more than $1 billion in losses for Medicare.


Two dozen people were indicted in the multistate, international telemarketing and DME scheme, which allegedly occurred in 17 federal judicial districts.

The 130 DME companies submitted more than $1.7 billion in claims to Medicare, were paid more than $900 million, and accounted in total for more than $1 billion in losses for the federal government.

The swindled money was allegedly laundered through international shell corporations and used to purchase exotic automobiles, yachts and luxury real estate in the United States and abroad,

Federal prosecutors are calling it one of the largest healthcare fraud schemes they’ve ever investigated.

Criminal indictments were made public this week against 24 people, including CEOs, COOs, physicians, and other executives at five telemedicine companies, and the owners of 130 durable medical equipment companies across 17 federal judicial districts for their roles in various schemes to bilk Medicare out of $1.2 billion.

Prosecutors said the DME companies allegedly paid kickbacks and bribes in exchange for the referral of Medicare beneficiaries by physicians in cahoots with fraudulent telemedicine companies for unnecessary back, shoulder, wrist and knee braces.

Some of the defendants allegedly controlled an international telemarketing network that lured over hundreds of thousands of elderly and/or disabled patients into a criminal scheme that crossed borders, involving call centers in the Philippines and throughout Latin America, prosecutors said.

The defendants allegedly paid doctors to prescribe DME either without any patient interaction or with only a brief telephonic conversation with patients they had never met or seen.

“The breadth of this nationwide conspiracy should be frightening to all who rely on some form of healthcare,” said Don Fort, Chief of Criminal Investigations at the Internal Revenue Service, one of six federal agencies involved in the probe.

“The conspiracy described in this indictment was not perpetrated by one individual.  Rather, it details broad corruption, massive amounts of greed, and systemic flaws in our healthcare system that were exploited by the defendants,” Fort said.

The 130 DME companies submitted more than $1.7 billion in claims to Medicare and were paid more than $900 million, and accounted in total for more than $1 billion in losses for the federal government.

The swindled money was allegedly laundered through international shell corporations and used to purchase exotic automobiles, yachts and luxury real estate in the United States and abroad, prosecutors said.

Court documents allege that some of the defendants lured patients for the scheme by using an international call center that advertised to Medicare beneficiaries and “up-sold” the beneficiaries to get them to accept numerous “free or low-cost” DME braces, regardless of medical necessity.

The international call center allegedly paid illegal kickbacks and bribes to telemedicine companies to obtain DME orders for these Medicare beneficiaries. The telemedicine companies then allegedly paid physicians to write medically unnecessary DME orders. Finally, the international call center sold the DME orders that it obtained from the telemedicine companies to DME companies, which fraudulently billed Medicare.


  • In New Jersey, Neal Williamsky 59, of Marlboro, and Nadia Levit, 39, of Englishtown, New Jersey, owners of 25 DME companies, were indicted for their alleged participation in a $150 million scheme.

    Albert Davydov, 26, of Rego Park, New York, was charged for his alleged participation in a $35 million DME scheme.

    Creaghan Harry, 51, of Highland Beach, Florida; Lester Stockett, 51, of Deefield Beach, Florida; and Elliot Loewenstern, 56, of Boca Raton, Florida; the owner, CEO and VP of marketing, respectively, of call centers and telemedicine companies were charged for their alleged participation in a $454 million kickback and money laundering scheme.

    Joseph DeCoroso, MD, 62, of Toms River, New Jersey, was charged in a $13 million conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and separate charges of healthcare fraud for writing medically unnecessary orders for DME, often without speaking to patients, while working for two telemedicine companies.

  • In Florida, Willie McNeal, 42, of Spring Hill, the owner and CEO of two telemedicine companies, was charged for his alleged participation in a $250 million scheme to swap kickbacks and bribes for DME referrals.
  • In Dallas, Texas, Leah Hagen, 48, and Michael Hagen, 51, of Dalworthington Gardens, owners and operators of two DME companies, were charged for their alleged participation in a $17 million kickback scheme that generated unnecessary DME orders.
  • In El Paso, Texas, Christopher O’Hara, 54, of Kingsbury, the owner of a telemedicine company, was charged in an $40 million scheme to swap kickbacks and bribes for referrals to DME providers.
  • In Philadelphia, Randy Swackhammer, MD, 60, of Goldsboro, North Carolina, was charged for an alleged $5 million conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. Swackhammer allegedly wrote medically unnecessary orders for DME while working for a telemedicine company, often with only brief conversations with patients.
  • In California, Darin Flashberg, 41, and Najib Jabbour, 47, both of Glendora, and owners of seven DME companies, were charged with alleged participation in a $34 million scheme that paid kickbacks and bribes in exchange for unnecessary DME orders.
  • In South Carolina, Andrew Chmiel, 43, of Mt. Pleasant, owner of over a dozen companies involved in the scheme, was charged in a $200 million scheme to pay kickbacks and bribes in exchange for unnecessary DME orders.





DOJ charges more than 600 in historic fraud takedown involving $2B in false claims


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Another year, another record-setting healthcare fraud takedown.

This year, the Department of Justice charged 601 individuals involved in fraud schemes totaling $2 billion in losses to the federal government. That’s nearly 200 more people and an additional $700 million than the previous year’s takedown.

There was a clear emphasis on opioid distribution, with 162 individuals charged with illegally prescribing or distributing narcotics. Of those charged for opioid fraud, 76 were physicians.

“Healthcare fraud is a betrayal of vulnerable patients, and often it is theft from the taxpayer,” Attorney General Sessions said in a statement. “In many cases, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists take advantage of people suffering from drug addiction in order to line their pockets. These are despicable crimes.”

Federal enforcement agencies have zeroed in on medical providers as a source of opioid diversion. Last year the DOJ created a new Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit with 12 dedicated U.S. attorneys and a focus on data analytics. In January, Sessions said the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) would direct agents to focus on prescribers and pharmacies and that dispense an unusual amount of drugs.

“This year’s operations, focusing on opioid-related schemes, spotlight the far-reaching impact of health care fraud,” said HHS Deputy Inspector General Gary Cantrell.

In this year’s takedown announcement, the DOJ said “virtually every health care fraud scheme requires a corrupt medical professional to be involved” and “aggressively pursuing” providers has a deterrent effect and ensures they cannot use their license to perpetuate schemes.

The agency highlighted one particular scheme in which a pain management specialist in New York and New Jersey was accused of taking cash from patients in exchanges for oxycodone and Subsys. He was also charged with second-degree murder after a patient died from an overdose.

Other areas of the country included equally egregious schemes:

  • In Texas a pharmacy owner and pharmacists were charged with using fraudulent prescriptions to fill more than 1 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills and distributed them to drug dealers.
  • In California, an attorney was accused of offering prostitutes and expensive meals to two podiatrists in exchange for preprinted prescription pads.
  • In Michigan and Illinois, individuals were charged with home health fraud schemes totaling $44 million.
  • In Southern Florida, a hotbed for healthcare fraud, the owner and director of a sober home were charged for a scheme involving widespread fraudulent urine testing and $106 million in claims for substance abuse treatment.

Fraud takedowns of this size and scale have become an annual event, dating back nearly a decade. Both the number of individuals and the amount of money involved in the schemes have gradually increased over the years as the DOJ and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) have emphasized the use of analytics as an investigative tool.

Federal enforcers have also relied on a collaborative approach to enforcement. Like last year, this week’s takedown involved multiple federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, the OIG, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.

Since 2016, federal agencies have charged more than 1,300 individuals tied to $4.2 billion in fraudulent billing schemes.


Healthcare CEO sentenced to 19 years for $18M physical therapy fraud scheme


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The former CEO of Team Work Ready, a Houston-based physical therapy chain, was sentenced June 1 to more than 19 years in prison for his role in an $18 million healthcare fraud scheme, according to the Department of Justice.

The sentencing came after a federal jury convicted Jeffrey Eugene Rose Sr. of healthcare fraud, conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering in October 2016. Mr. Rose was one of three Team Work Ready executives convicted in the scheme.

According to federal prosecutors, Mr. Rose and his co-conspirators submitted $18.3 million in fraudulent claims for physical therapy services that were never provided through Mr. Rose’s 10 Team Work Ready clinics in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. The claims were submitted under the Federal Employees Compensation Act, which is administered by the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Program.

In addition to the prison term, Mr. Rose was ordered to pay $14.5 million in restitution to the DOL’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Program.



New healthcare fraud trends managed care organizations need to watch


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Even traditional fraud schemes can be difficult to detect, and new methods will only make things more difficult for security teams watching healthcare dollars, says Shimon R. Richmond, special agent in charge at the Miami Regional Office in the Office of Investigations for the Office of the Attorney General.

Richmond gave a presentation on healthcare fraud trends on November 16 at the annual National Healthcare Anti-Fraud Association conference in Orlando, and says hypervigilance is key because obvious red flags are rare.

Where fraud is most prevalent

Richmond says these methods are often based in home health care, personal services, community-based services, and hospice care.

“We see a lot of unnecessary services and billing for services not provided. In the personal care services arena there are a lot of incestuous relationships in terms of who’s providing the care, who’s receiving the care, and who’s billing,” Richmond says. “One really kind of significant theme is pervasive and that’s the overwhelming influence of kickbacks in every area of fraud that we’re seeing.”

Kickbacks can be difficult to detect because this type of fraud often occurs outside of medical systems, he says. Data analytics systems can help, particularly if a system can recognize spikes in billing patterns or from certain providers.

“That’s a red flag. There are those anomalies that we can identify in a proactive manner. But the outside financial arrangements are really something that law enforcement is really only able to get into once we delve into an investigation,” Richmond says.

New fraud trends  

Emerging fraud trends are another challenge when counteracting fraud. It’s difficult to get in front of a new problem that hasn’t been seen before, and the game is always changing, Richmond says.

Recently, Richmond says he has seen an uptick in inappropriate prescriptions for  SUBSYS (fentanyl sublingual spray), which is meant to be prescribed to treat breakthrough pain in cancer patients.

“We’ve seen a huge issue lately where it is being marketed and prescribed to noncancer patients,” Richmond says. “Huge amounts of this drug are being prescribed, but the prescriber is not an oncologist.”

Pharmacies can also be involved in fraudulent activities by searching patient insurance plans to find high-cost prescriptions that can be filled and paid for. The pharmacies then target those consumers to push medications they don’t need, or bill for prescriptions that are never filled.

“A lot of times it’s a bait-and-switch type situation where they’ll do some kind of advertising for a knee brace or some other kind of thing just to get patients to call a number,” Richmond says. Once patients call, they are told the product they were interested in is not available but are offered a more expensive substitute. “There are a lot of marketing companies out there that are acting as lead generators where they are essentially selling to patients the idea of trying out these pains creams or scar creams.”

Hospitals and provider groups in financial distress are also becoming involved in fraud schemes, setting up in-house labs or working with outside labs to generate claims, often for fraudulent genetic testing or urine/drug screens. They may bill for unneeded tests with a kickback, or collect samples that never get tested but are still billed, he says.

Cyber threats and identity theft also continue to be a problem, Richmond says, with a huge spike in the area of telemedicine.

New fraudsters enter the arena

“We are seeing bulk cash transfers, weapons caches, and drug organizations migrating in as they develop their technological abilities and acumen in how to exploit electronic health records,” Richmond says. “This is kind of an evolving threat, and unfortunately, so much of the information is obtainable either online or through an employee that compromises the organization and practice.”

Security teams have to focus on trending information from data on encounters and billing practices, and analyze patterns just to try and keep up.

“I can’t emphasize enough the value of the investments in the analytics and proactive monitoring. That is crucial. Being in the law enforcement arena, a lot of our proactive efforts involve a combination of those analytics and looking for those outliers, or those parts that don’t make sense,” Richmond says. “At the end of the day, it’s all about hypervigilance.

Ex-Cleveland Clinic Innovation executive pleads guilty in $2.7M fraud case, prison time likely


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The former head of Cleveland Clinic Innovations pleaded guilty Tuesday for his role in defrauding the nonprofit academic medical center out of more than $2.7 million via a shell company.

Gary Fingerhut was arraigned in U.S. District Court and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services fraud and one count of making false statements, Crain’s Cleveland Business reports.

Although he won’t be formally sentenced until Jan. 30, Fingerhut’s attorney told the publication that federal prosecutors will ask U.S. District Judge Christopher Boyko for a sentence of between 41 and 51 months in federal prison. He may also be ordered to pay restitution to the Cleveland Clinic.

Fingerhut served as the executive director of the clinic’s innovation arm for two years until an FBI investigation revealed in 2015 that he was involved in a fraudulent scheme with the chief technology officer of a spinoff company to contract with a company that never intended to perform or provide any goods and services. The deal was in violation of Cleveland Clinic’s ethics and compliance policies and requirements, which prohibit employees from receiving any financial benefit from companies the Clinic did business with, and the organization fired Fingerhut.

Federal prosecutors said Fingerhut accepted at least $469,000 in payments in return for not disclosing the fraud scheme, which diverted nearly $3 million from the Clinic.

Fingerhut’s attorney, J. Timothy Bender of Bender, Alexander & Broome in Cleveland, told Crain’s that Fingerhut is very sorry for his role in the fraud scheme.

Physician who claimed to have 11k patients sentenced to 35 years in prison


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A 60-year-old Texas physician was sentenced Aug. 9 to 35 years in prison for orchestrating a $375 million healthcare fraud scheme, according to the Department of Justice.

Federal prosecutors said Jacques Roy, MD, and his cohorts used promises of cash, groceries and food stamps to recruit patients, including some of Dallas’ homeless, as part of the fraud scheme.

From January 2006 to November 2011, Dr. Roy’s office, Medistat Group Associates in DeSoto, Texas, handled more home healthcare visits than any physician’s office in the country. Dr. Roy allegedly certified or directed the certification of more than 11,000 individual patients from more than 500 home healthcare agencies for home health services during that time, according to the DOJ.

“A doctor cannot care for 11,000 patients at once,” Assistant U.S. Attorney P.J. Meitl said during the trial, according to The Dallas Morning News

In April 2016, Dr. Roy, who has lost his medical license, was found guilty on eight counts of healthcare fraud, two counts of making a false statement relating to healthcare matters, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. Three owners of home healthcare agencies were also convicted on various felony offenses.

In addition to his 35-year prison term, Dr. Roy was ordered to pay $268.15 million in restitution.