20 plus arrested in DC's largest health care fraud

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- More than 20 people were arrested Thursday in what is considered the largest health care fraud takedown in the history of the District of Columbia.

The U.S. Department of Justice said operators of home care agencies, nurse staffing agencies, office workers, and personal care assistants were among the individuals arrested following investigations into fraudulent billing practices in the home health care industry.

Hundreds of law enforcement agents made arrests throughout the DC region, executed warrants at 10 locations, and seized dozens of bank accounts and property, officials said.

U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. along with several other officials announced the charges Thursday.

According to the investigation, various schemes involving fraud, kickbacks and false billings were found in the home care services for D.C. Medicaid patients.

In one incident, a woman who was no longer allowed to participate in federal health care programs after her nursing license was taken away, collected more than $75 million through the District of Columbia and Maryland Medicaid programs, officials said.

Other individuals involved in schemes have been accused of recruiting and teaming up with Medicaid beneficiaries, who pretended to have symptoms, in order to enroll in home health care, officials added. These individuals got cash payments of on average $200 every two weeks. They signed timesheets showing they had home care services when they did not. D.C. Medicaid lost hundred of thousands of dollars in incidents like this, officials said.

Officials said another incident involved a woman selling counterfeit home health care aide certificates.

"This investigation has revealed that Medicaid fraud in the District of Columbia is at
epidemic levels," U.S. Attorney Machen said. "This fraud diverts precious taxpayer dollars,
drives up the cost of health care, and jeopardizes the strength of a program that serves the most
vulnerable members of our society. However, as today's arrests, searches, and seizures
demonstrate, we are aggressively fighting back to protect the U.S. taxpayer and the integrity of
our federal health care programs."

"Medicaid fraud rings are criminal enterprises that threaten our health care system and
our public safety, and they will not be tolerated," Assistant Director in Charge
Parlave said. "Today's arrests are part of a well-coordinated action with our law enforcement partners
that puts criminals on notice that we are actively working to identify, arrest and prosecute anyone
who participates in defrauding government programs designed to assist truly deserving patients."

"Criminal organizations that steal from the District of Columbia Medicaid program are
robbing the bank of health care money and cheating honest citizens of resources needed for their
care," Special Agent in Charge DiGiulio said. "We will work tenaciously with our law
enforcement partners to fully investigate these disturbing allegations."

"While it cannot be overly emphasized that this is an announcement of the charging of
individuals for alleged criminal conduct with respect to the Medicaid program, the bringing of
the charges demonstrates how the District of Columbia Office of the Inspector General continues
to work with its law enforcement partners and District agencies to safeguard the District's
residents and treasury, collaborations that I continue to be proud of," Inspector General
Willoughby said.


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