Eighteen people, including some doctors, have been criminally charged over Covid-19 healthcare fraud schemes that raised hundreds of millions of dollars through fake bills and theft from federally funded programs , the Justice Department said Thursday.
The charges, which span nine federal court districts, are the largest coordinated law enforcement action in the United States targeting fraud schemes that “exploit the Covid pandemic,” the DOJ said in a statement. Press.
A California doctor, Anthony Hao Dinh, has been accused of allegedly submitting about $230 million in fraudulent claims to the Federal Health Resources and Services Administration’s uninsured Covid-19 program.
Dinh, who practices in Orange County, was the nation’s second-largest provider for the program, according to the DOJ. The program aimed to provide uninsured patients with access to Covid testing and treatment, but it stopped operating last year due to a lack of funding.
Some of the claims Dinh submitted were for services that were not medically necessary, prosecutors said.
Dinh also billed the program for treating insured patients and allegedly used more than $100 million in fraud proceeds for trading high-risk options.
Dinh and two others are also charged with allegedly submitting more than 70 fraudulent loan applications that secured more than $3 million under the federal Paycheck Protection Program and Disaster Loan Program. economic.
Another defendant in California, lab owner Lourdes Navarro, is accused of submitting more than $358 million in false claims for lab tests to Medicare, which is the federal health insurance program for the elderly, HRSA and a private insurance company.
Navarro’s lab has done Covid testing for nursing homes and schools, and has reportedly increased its reimbursements by adding claims for panel testing of respiratory pathogens that providers and facility administrators don’t. haven’t ordered.
The other cases announced on Thursday involved suppliers of over-the-counter Covid test kits, the DOJ said.
Medicare last April began covering up to eight of these tests per month at no cost to beneficiaries who requested them.
But some providers allegedly “sought to exploit the program” by repeatedly providing patients with dozens of Covid tests “they didn’t want or need,” the DOJ said.
A Florida doctor and merchant have been accused of allegedly purchasing Medicare beneficiary ID numbers and shipping tests to beneficiaries who did not request them.
This resulted in $8.4 million in fraudulent Medicare claims, the DOJ said.
Other cases involved the alleged manufacturer and the distribution of fake Covid vaccine registration cards.
The defendants in these cases include three medical professionals working in a small midwifery practice in New York, who allegedly distributed nearly 2,700 fake Covid vaccine cards to unvaccinated people.
The midwife’s practice was one of the busiest vaccination sites in the state, the DOJ said.
Two people in Utah have also been charged with allegedly making and selling around 120,000 fake Covid vaccine cards. Those defendants sold the cards across the United States, particularly in regions that had stricter restrictions on Covid vaccinations, prosecutors say.
The DOJ said these people were “intentionally seeking to obstruct” the federal government’s efforts to roll out a nationwide Covid vaccination program.
“The Department of Justice will not tolerate those who have exploited the pandemic for personal gain and stolen taxpayers’ money,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a press release.
“This unprecedented enforcement action against defendants across the country is a clear demonstration that the Department is using all available resources to combat and prevent COVID-19-related fraud and protect the integrity of taxpayer-funded programs.”
The charges come months after the department created three strike force teams to bolster its efforts to combat and prevent Covid-related fraud. They also follow similar criminal charges related to the Covid fraud schemes in April 2022 and May 2021.
In its announcement Thursday, the DOJ said it seized more than $16 million in cash in connection with the alleged schemes.