Attorney General Eric Holder, who called the arrests the largest takedown of Medicare fraud in U.S. history. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Arrests in U.S. cities netted charges against 91 people for an alleged Medicare fraud schemes involving $295 million in false billing, officials said.
The nearly eight dozen people arrested included doctors, nurses and other medical personnel, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said Wednesday in describing what he said was the largest takedown for Medicare fraud in U.S. history.
"The defendants charged in this takedown are accused of stealing precious taxpayer resources and defrauding Medicare -- jeopardizing the integrity of our healthcare system and our nation's most critical healthcare program for personal gain," Holder said.
The Joint Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a multiagency team of federal, state and local investigators, spent the past week working with FBI, local law enforcement officials and other agencies in the takedown, the Justice Department said in a release. Besides the arrests, agents also executed 18 search warrants in ongoing strike force investigations.
Court documents indicate the defendants allegedly participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare for treatments that were medically unnecessary and frequently never provided. The indictments and complaints also allege that patient recruiters, Medicare beneficiaries and other co-conspirators were paid kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers so the providers could fraudulently bill Medicare.
The defendants are accused of numerous healthcare fraud-related crimes, including conspiracy to defraud Medicare, healthcare fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes and money-laundering.
"Today's arrests are a powerful warning to those who would try to defraud taxpayers and Medicare beneficiaries," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. "[Our] efforts to stop criminals don't end here because the Affordable Care Act gives us new tools to prevent Medicare fraud before it is committed."