WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Thirteen Detroit-area residents were arrested today by federal agents from the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and FBI in connection with an alleged home health care scheme to defraud the Medicare program of more than $14.5 million, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan; Special-Agent-in-Charge Andrew G. Arena of the FBI's Detroit Field Office; and Special-Agent-in-Charge Lamont Pugh of the Chicago Regional Office.
In a six-count indictment returned on Jan. 12, 2009, and unsealed today, the 13 individuals are alleged to have participated in a Medicare fraud scheme operated out of Patient Choice Home Healthcare (Patient Choice) and All American Home Care (All American), two Oakland County, Mich., home health agencies that purported to provide in-home health services. Muhammad Shahab, 50; Christopher Collins, 38; Hassan Akhtar, 26; Curtis Mallory, 35; Mohammed El-Fallal, 55; Jessica Vigil, 34; Tariq Chaudhary, 36; Faisal Chaudry, 31; and Visnhu Meda, 29, were all indicted for conspiracy to commit health care fraud. In addition, Shahab; Pramod Raval, M.D., 56; Guy Ross, 48; Lura Barrett, 61; and Stephen Cartier, 50, were charged with conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute. Shahab and Akhtar were also each charged with two counts of money laundering. The indictment seeks the forfeiture of assets from all the defendants.
According to the indictment, Shahab, Akhtar and Collins owned and operated Patient Choice and All American. The home health agencies purported to provide home health therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries. The indictment alleges that Patient Choice and All American billed for home health therapy services that were unnecessary and were never performed. In addition, it alleges that Collins and Mallory recruited patients and paid them kickbacks for their Medicare information and signatures on documents. These false documents were then used to bill Medicare for home health services that were not rendered. The indictment also alleges that El-Fallal used the identity of a licensed physician to sign physician referrals for home health therapy services that were medically unnecessary and not performed. The indictment charges Vigil, Chaudhary, Chaudry and Meda with falsifying medical records to make it appear that home health therapy services were provided.
In addition, the indictment alleges that Shahab, Dr. Raval, Ross, Barrett and Cartier engaged in a conspiracy where Shahab would pay kickbacks to the others in exchange for patient referrals and access to Medicare beneficiaries under Dr. Raval, Ross, Barrett and Cartier's care.
The indictment alleges that Medicare paid Patient Choice and All American more than $14.5 million for services that were medically unnecessary and not provided between August 2007 and September 2009. The charge of health care fraud conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charge of violating the Anti-Kickback Statute carries a maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine of up to $25,000. Each violation of 18 USC 1956 (money laundering) carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a maximum fine of $500,000. Each violation of 18 USC 1957 (money laundering) carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Chief Kirk Ogrosky, Senior Trial Attorney John Neal and Trial Attorney Gejaa Gobena of the Criminal Division's Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG. This prosecution is the latest in the Medicare Fraud Strike Force's efforts in the Detroit area. The Strike Force is supervised by the Criminal Division's Fraud Section and U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Since the inception of Strike Force operations in March 2007 - Miami (Phase One), Los Angeles (Phase Two), Detroit (Phase Three), Houston (Phase Four), Brooklyn (Phase Five), Tampa (Phase Six) and Baton Rouge (Phase Seven) - the Strike Force has obtained indictments of more than 475 individuals and organizations that collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $1 billion. In addition, HHS's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice