Technology Kickback scheme cost Florida VA hospitals millions, investigators say

09:10  12 december  2019
09:10  12 december  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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The West Palm Beach VA Medical Center in Riviera Beach, Florida . At least 15 Department of Veterans Affairs employees and vendors in Florida were engaged in an "elaborate" fraud scheme The employees would then receive a kickback on what the VA paid those vendors, officials said .

Feds indict Miami VA employees and medical suppliers accused of kickback scheme . Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida charged three inventory management The indictment said the scheme dates back to 2009. Special agents for the VA ’s Office of Inspector

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Inflating the price of toilet paper and sophisticated medical devices, employees of veterans hospitals in Riviera Beach and Miami conspired to fleece the hospitals out of millions that could have been used to treat military veterans, officials said Wednesday.

a clock on the side of a building: This June 21, 2013, file photo shows the Veterans Affairs Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)© Charles Dharapak, AP This June 21, 2013, file photo shows the Veterans Affairs Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Seven Palm Beach County residents – including two disabled veterans – were among 15 people arrested in connection with the decade-long fraud scheme, South Florida U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan said at a news conference.

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A kickback is a form of negotiated bribery in which a commission is paid to the bribe-taker in exchange for services rendered. Generally speaking, the remuneration (money, goods, or services handed over) is negotiated ahead of time.

From there, investigators uncovered a wide-ranging scheme to defraud the federal government, whereby Patel received in excess of .5 million “The GSA Office of Inspector General will continue to aggressively investigate GSA contractors who engage in bribery and kickback schemes at the

Those arrested, including Department of Veterans Affairs employees and owners of companies that provided goods to the two hospitals, participated in a mutually beneficial bribery and kickback scheme, she said.

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The methods varied, she said. Sometimes they involved grossly inflating the price of an item, such as claiming a $10 case of toilet paper cost $50. In other cases, orders were fictitious or were only partially filled.

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  A foster mom was arrested in an adoption scheme A foster mom was arrested in an alleged adoption scheme after using her foster son as bait, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); Tina Scee, 54, of Interlachen, Florida, was arrested Friday and charged with organized scheme to defraud, grand theft, illegally placing a child for adoption and perjury in connection with the scam, according to FDLE.

Investigators learned of the fraudulent activity while investigating bidding patters at the VA medical center located in White River Junction, Vermont. Basically, Patel in his capacity as an official for the VA contractor apparently accepted the kickbacks without his employer or VA noticing for many years.

A Fort Myers doctor who received kickbacks from medical equipment and pain pill providers will pay a The government said Frey submitted false claims to Medicare and Tricare for urine tests that were not medically Frey also improperly referred patients for anesthesia services, investigators said .

In all cases, however, both the vendors and the employees cashed in by receiving kickbacks or bribes to falsify the orders. Then, Fajardo said, they split the illicit profits.

“It was an elaborate scheme and it went on for a substantial period of time,” she said, later specifying that investigators believe it began in 2009.

It wasn’t detected in routine audits because the mainly low-level employees worked for the VA for years and knew how to game the system, she said.

“The fraud scheme masked what was going on,” Fajardo said.

The impact, however, was far-reaching.

“These defendants chose to line their own pockets and caused the VA to pay out millions of dollars that could have been used for veteran services,” said David Johnson, assistant inspector general for the VA. His office spearheaded the investigation.

While 14 of those who were charged were involved in the kickback scheme, a 48-year-old Delray Beach woman is accused of selling her status as a disabled veteran to allow a company to get preferential treatment for VA contracts.

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The scheme involved HMA hospitals billing and obtaining reimbursement for higher-paying inpatient hospital Federal law, including the Anti- Kickback Statute and the Stark Law, prohibits hospitals “Billing for unnecessary hospital stays wastes federal dollars,” said Assistant Attorney General Hunt.

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The Wellington-based company, EMKO Medical Supply, billed the two medical centers $8.8 million for various goods since January 2017, court records show.

The disabled vet, Lisa Anderson, who is accused of falsely claiming she owned at least 51% of the company, is charged with making a false statement. She faces a maximum five-year prison sentence if convicted.

The principals of EMKO, Earron Starks, 49, and Carlicha Starks, 40, who list addresses in both Wellington and Hallandale Beach, are charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud in connection with the kickback scheme.

While court records show employees were paid kickbacks ranging from $3,000 to $7,000, investigators said the scheme cost the VA millions. They declined to offer a specific amount or even a range. But they offered several examples of how it operated.

For instance, the employees, who worked in logistics and were allowed to use VA computers and credit cards to order goods, regularly ordered medical devices, such as balloon catheters, from Boston Scientific, said David Spilker, special agent in charge of the VA inspector general’s office in Miami.

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The kickbacks were all part of a bid-rigging scheme prosecutors say cost taxpayers million designated for disaster victims. She admitted accepting more than million in bribes and kickbacks from 1996 to 2001 from Miami businessman Jose Antonio Martinez, including a Caribbean

Our Private Investigators In South Florida Utilize The Latest Technology And Techniques To Gather And Document The Evidence You Need. Our investigations are taught patience and will not jeopardize “getting caught” via taking unnecessary risk. There simply is no other agency that is known

However, the Massachusetts-based medical device manufacturer doesn’t sell to third-party vendors. The orders were phony and cost the VA “a couple million dollars,” he said.

Investigators also discovered orders for laundry detergent for the Miami VA hospital. But all of its laundry is done at the Riviera Beach medical center, Fajardo said.

“So why is Miami purchasing laundry detergent?” she said of questions that ultimately led investigators to those involved.

a person walking down a street next to a building: An exterior shot of the Department of Veterans Affairs taken on April 1, 2016 in Washington.© Jarrad Henderson, USA TODAY An exterior shot of the Department of Veterans Affairs taken on April 1, 2016 in Washington.

Those who were arrested in connection with their work at the VA hospital in Riviera Beach are: Clinton Purvis, 52, and Christopher Young, 44, both of West Palm Beach; Kenneth Scott, 59, of Riviera Beach; and former employee Robert Johnson, 62, of West Palm Beach.

All are charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud and bribery – charges that could send them to prison for decades.

Jorge Flores, a 45-year-old disabled veteran from Delray Beach, who owned several companies, including Delray Distributors and Sunshine Supply USA, that sold goods to the two hospitals, . He is charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Robert Kozak, 73, of Boca Raton, who operated Patriot’s Supply Corp. and Veterans Medical Supply Depot, faces the same charge.

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Authorities said the kickbacks included 103 payouts to 33 physician groups over nine years ending in 2010. The case raises questions of whether doctors were working to pad their wallets or provide the best possible care for patients, analysts said .

U.S. investigators said the company used research grants, consulting deals, gifts and free "Doctors and hospitals should decide to purchase medical devices based solely on legitimate considerations Olympus was "funding a massive kickback scheme that channeled millions of dollars in payola to

How much they earned from the VA is not detailed in court documents.

Those arrested who worked at the VA in Miami are: Waymon Woods, 58, of Miami; Don Anderson, 59, of Port St. Lucie; Jose Cuervo, 53, of Miramar; Donnie Hawes, 35, of Cutler Bay; and Robert Harris, 44, and Eugene Campbell, 60, both of Miami Gardens. All are charged with bribery.

Most of those who were charged appeared in court Wednesday and were released on bond. They are to be back in court Friday to officially plead to the charges.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., who lost both of his legs in an explosion while serving in the Army in Afghanistan, decried the scheme.

“Although I know there are many amazing and talented people at the VA who cherish the opportunity to serve our veteran community selflessly, unfortunately, this is yet another example of the VA limping from scandal to scandal, and it’s exactly why the VA should be begging for increased oversight,” he said in a statement.

The VA has been rocked by scandals in recent years, including ongoing reports that veterans can’t get appointments and that some have died waiting for treatment.

Fajardo echoed Mast’s comments about the vast of majority of those who work for the $200 billion a year behemoth, the second largest agency in the U.S. government; only the Department of Defense is bigger.

“This does not reflect on the well-intentioned people who work for the VA,” Fajardo said. “It’s just a couple of bad apples.”

Follow Jane Musgrave on Twitter: @pbpcourts

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kickback scheme cost Florida VA hospitals millions, investigators say

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