In what authorities are calling the largest national healthcare fraud takedown
in U.S. history, five residents from Tampa and more than six dozen from
South Florida have been accused of defrauding the Medicaid and Medicare programs.
Of the 243 arrested, many were doctors, nurses, and pharmacy owners. Included
in the five people arrested in the Tampa area, was a physician who billed
for services that were never rendered, according to authorities.
Nationwide Takedown Yields 5 Tampa Arrests
The charges in Tampa and South Florida were part of a nationwide takedown
that involved about $712 million in false billings. According to Miami
U.S. attorney Wilfredo Ferrer, they arrested doctors, therapists, clinic
owners, pharmacy owners, employees of healthcare professionals, and patient
The nationwide sweep spanned from Alaska, to California, to New York and
Florida. Though the cases were unrelated, in an effort to send a message
to other fraudsters and the general public, law enforcement agencies have
coordinated a series of announcements.
The crackdown, the largest of its kind, primarily focused on prescription
fraud. Over 40 of the arrests involved fraudsters whose scams that targeted
Medicare’s drug benefit, which is expected to be the fastest-growing
part of the program.
According to Gary Cantrell, the top investigator for the Health and Human
Services Inspector General’s Office, their greatest concern is the
prescription drug program. Cantrell said that the scams often involve
billing for drugs that were never dispensed, or billing for painkillers
and narcotics that end up being sold on the streets.
The five arrested in Tampa are accused of participating in various schemes,
such as a multimillion dollar scheme involving fraudulent physical therapy
billing, and billing for tests that were never conducted, according to
the Department of Justice.
In one of the Tampa cases, a licensed pain management physician billed
for nerve conduction studies and other services that were allegedly not
performed. In that case, the defendant received over $1 million in reimbursement
from Medicare for the purported services.
Since Medicare is legally required to pay claims promptly, it makes it
so the program is vulnerable to fraud. Investigators call this “pay
Medicare has been cracking down on fraud in the recent years by more extensive
monitoring of claims before they are paid, and by imposing stiffer penalties
on those found guilty of defrauding the program.
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