National News

Medicare fraud crackdown: 100+ arrested

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Government officials say more than 100 people in seven different U.S. cities have been arrested in a historic nationwide crackdown on Medicare fraud.

The arrests included doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes.

An FBI source says Alpha Ambulance in the 400 block of Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles was among several businesses raided on Wednesday morning as part of the crackdown. The owners were nowhere to be seen, as federal agents went in and out of the facility with boxes of evidence.

No one at Alpha Ambulance was arrested or indicted, but it was a different story at a number of other local medical offices and clinics, including Ivy Medical Supply in Anaheim, Pacific Clinic in Long Beach, Latay Medical in Gardena and Santos Medical Supply in Los Angeles.

Eight people in Los Angeles have been charged as part of the investigation, including two doctors. At Latay Medical, federal authorities were cooperating with the receptionist who tipped them off, according to court papers. According to federal law, the receptionist is entitled to 25 percent of whatever money the government can recover.

At a news conference in Washington, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the unrelated scams cost taxpayers $452 million in fraudulent claims.

"This is the highest amount of alleged false medical billings involved in a single takedown in the strike force's five-year history," Holder said.

In most cases, the government alleges that the owners of the medical service companies were billing Medicare for services that they never provided.

"Now, we're analyzing patterns and trends in claims data instead of just going claim by claim," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The bust was the latest in a string of major arrests in the past two years, as investigators target fraud that is believed to be costing the government between $60 billion and $90 billion a year.

"The results we are announcing today are at the heart of an Administration-wide commitment to protecting American taxpayers from health care fraud, which can drive up costs and threaten the strength and integrity of our health care system," Holder said.

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Tags:
president barack obama, health care, health insurance, fraud, national news, robert holguin
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