DOJ: 21 people charged with $150 mln in Covid fraud in US
Nationwide enforcement has taken place in the last 9 days to find individuals responsible for health care fraud.
The Justice Department reported Wednesday that twenty-one persons have been prosecuted in the last nine days as part of a statewide enforcement operation to catch those who abuse the epidemic through health care fraud schemes.
The alleged bogus billings and embezzlement from government pandemic aid programs totaled around $150 million in the cases. The Department of Justice confiscated more than $8 million in cash and other illicit profits.
Some are accused of offering COVID-19 testing in exchange for personal identifying information and a saliva or blood sample. Samples were then used to file fraudulent Medicare claims for needless, more expensive tests or treatments.
In Colorado, federal officials discovered a plot to manufacture and distribute counterfeit immunization record cards by looking through a man's garbage. Owners of medical clinics in Maryland and New York have been accused of submitting fraudulent claims for lengthy office visits that never occurred by using information from people who sought COVID testing at drive-thru locations.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite stated that the action "sends a very clear message that we will stop at nothing to root out COVID-19 related health care fraud, wherever it may be found," adding that the department is committed to the protection of the people and holding those who exploit programs accountable.
Imran Shams and Lourdes Navarro, both 63, of Glendale, California, have been charged in an alleged Medicare fraud conspiracy. They are accused of operating a laboratory that filed roughly $144 million in false and fraudulent claims for COVID and respiratory pathogen tests. According to the indictment, the tests were not reimbursed and were obtained through kickbacks and bribes, and Shams and Navarro hid their positions in the lab due to past health care fraud convictions.
Mark Werksman, Navarro's attorney, stated that the defendant denies the charges.
Other defendants are suspected of abusing telemedicine regulations put in place during the epidemic, stealing money meant for frontline medical practitioners, and creating and distributing false vaccination record cards.
Nearly a year ago, the DOJ launched a similar nationwide enforcement effort involving 14 defendants and a total of approximately $143 million in bogus billings. Both enforcement efforts were supported by a large number of federal and local law enforcement authorities.
Last month, the Justice Department nominated Kevin Chambers as the top prosecutor for pandemic fraud, fulfilling President Joe Biden's State of the Union commitment to pursue crooks who stole billions in relief funds.