Without citing cases of specific crackdowns in Brooklyn, United States Attorney General Eric Holder, together with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry, announced that charges have been brought up against defendants across the country for the “serious crime of defrauding the Medicare program.”
Ninety-one people — including 11 doctors, three nurses and 10 medical professionals — have been busted for their alleged participation in the nationwide Medicare fraud scheme, which spanned across eight major US cities, including Brooklyn, Baton Rouge, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami, and totaled a staggering $295 million in fraudulent billing practice, exceeding the previous largest sweep of arrests this past February, which involved upward of 40 unrelated schemes that cost taxpayers more than $240 million.
A little more than a month ago, our area saw two local apothecaries — Monica’s Pharmacy at 1324 Sheepshead Bay Road and L&A Pharmacy at 394 Avenue X — raided by federal agents, resulting in the arrests of Luba Balyasny, 46, and Alla Shrayber, 40. The two licensed pharmacists were charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
According to Holder, “The indictments announced today serve as a powerful reminder that Medicare fraud is a nationwide problem. From Brooklyn, to Miami, to Los Angeles, the defendants allegedly treated the Medicare program like a personal piggy bank. But today’s law enforcement operations also serve as a wake-up call that our fight remains nationwide as well — and with increasingly successful results.”
As charged in the indictments, the defendants cover nearly the entire spectrum of healthcare providers, and perpetrated a variety of fraudulent schemes. A doctor in Detroit allegedly billed Medicare for performing psychotherapy treatments more than 24 hours per day. He is also charged with billing the Medicare program for services provided to dead beneficiaries.
The owner of a healthcare referral business in Houston is charged with recruiting, in exchange for kickbacks, Medicare beneficiaries for approximately 100 different home healthcare agencies.
A supervisor at a community mental health center in Miami, that is charged with submitting over $50 million in fraudulent billings to Medicare, allegedly threatened to evict residents of a boarding house he also managed, unless they attended the center. A registered nurse, mental health counselors, and other healthcare professionals are charged with participating in the same scheme.
With Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams now in nine cities across the country, and employing sophisticated, data-driven law enforcement methods, we are determined to hold Medicare cheats criminally responsible. And that is exactly what we will continue to do.
Our relentless efforts to investigate and prosecute Medicare fraud over the past two-and-a-half years are only getting stronger. Just ask the registered nurse in Miami who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in August. Our investigative methods are becoming more sophisticated. Just ask the infusion therapy clinic owner in Detroit who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in March. And our resolve has never been greater. Just ask the Miami doctor who was sentenced to 19-and-a-half years in prison in June.
It is my great privilege to work with the dedicated Strike Force prosecutors of the Criminal Division and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and to partner with courageous law enforcement agents at the FBI and HHS-OIG. Together, we are waging an important battle to safeguard the Medicare program.