MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The United States Justice Department says hundreds of thousands of elderly and disabled patients were lured into a criminal scheme. Now a lawsuit is taking action against 130 companies that submitted over $1.7 billion in claims.
The Justice Department calls it one of the largest health care fraud schemes investigated by the FBI and the Office of the Inspector General.
According to the D.O.J., the charges target a scheme involving illegal kickbacks and bribes by DME (Durable Medical Equipment) companies in exchange for the referral of Medicare beneficiaries by medical professionals. This means the Department of Justice says patients tried to get medical help, but were told they needed back, shoulder, wrist, or knee braces that were medically unnecessary. The D.O.J. says the health care fraud schemes total more than $1.2 billion in losses.
“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 proceeds of the fraudulent scheme were allegedly laundered through international shell corporations and used to purchase exotic automobiles, yachts and luxury real estate in the United States and abroad,” the D.O.J. said.
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said, “The indictments we are unsealing today charge the defendants with running a complex, multilayered scheme to defraud our Medicare system and avoid detection by government regulators.” He continued saying, “The defendants took advantage of unwitting patients who were simply trying to get relief from their health concerns. Instead, the defendants preyed upon their weakened state and pushed millions of dollars’ worth of unnecessary medical devices, which Medicare paid for, and then set up an elaborate system for laundering their ill-gotten proceeds. We are proud to join our law enforcement partners in New Jersey and around the country to put a stop to this unscrupulous criminal activity.”
One of the businesses specifically listed in the lawsuit is Bentley Medical Products in Mobile. On its website, the company says it was “formed to support Durable Medical Equipment Suppliers and their specific need for high-quality, medical grade braces. These suppliers are required to adhere to rigorous Medicare guidelines in order to participate in Medicare’s DMEPOS program and be reimbursed by Medicare and private insurers.”
The lawsuit alleges Bentley Medical Products was one company used to further along “the scheme by shipping low-cost and low-quality Chinese made products to the Medicare patients.”