WASHINGTON—A physical therapist assistant was sentenced on October 29th, 2014 to serve 50 months in prison for his role in a $14.9 million fraud scheme, through which he and others billed Medicare for home health services that they never provided, and provided beneficiaries with prescriptions for unnecessary painkillers and other narcotics to induce them to sign false medical documents to support the fraudulent billings.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Detroit Office made the announcement.
Jigar Patel, 31, a physical therapist assistant from Madison Heights, Michigan, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Terrence G. Berg in the Eastern District of Michigan. In addition to his prison term, Patel was ordered to pay $1.9 million in restitution.
Patel, along with co-defendants Srinivas Reddy, 38, an unlicensed doctor from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and Shahzad Mirza, 43, a physical therapist from Canton, Michigan, were each convicted by a federal jury on April 30, 2014, of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. In addition, Mirza and Patel were each found guilty of two counts of health care fraud, and Reddy was found guilty of three counts of health care fraud. Patel was also found guilty of one count of money laundering. Reddy and Mirza will be sentenced at a later date.
According to evidence presented at trial, between July 2008 and September 2011, the defendants used four home health care companies—Physicians Choice Home Health Care LLC, Quantum Home Care Inc., First Care Home Health Care LLC, and Moonlite Home Care Inc.—to fraudulently bill Medicare for home health care services that were never provided. Through those companies, the defendants paid kickbacks to recruiters for the referral of Medicare beneficiaries. In turn, the recruiters paid the beneficiaries cash and promised them access to unnecessary prescriptions for painkillers and other narcotics. Through a fifth company, Phoenix Visiting Physicians, the defendants employed unlicensed individuals, including Reddy, to provide the beneficiaries with the promised prescriptions and to obtain the necessary information to complete the referrals for medically unnecessary home health care services.
Evidence presented at trial showed that beneficiaries signed blank medical paperwork that Patel and others then completed with false information purporting to show that care was provided, when it was not. Patel, Mirza and others signed this paperwork, certifying that they had provided the services. In the course of the conspiracy, Patel incorporated his own staffing company, MI Healthcare Staffing, through which he laundered proceeds of the fraud.
As a result of the defendants’ fraudulent conduct, Medicare paid nearly $15 million.
The defendants were charged in a superseding indictment on Feb. 6, 2012. Three other individuals charged in the indictment remain fugitives. The charges contained in an indictment are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case is being investigated by HHS-OIG and the FBI and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Catherine K. Dick and Trial Attorneys Matthew C. Thuesen and Rohan A. Virginkar of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.