DETROIT - Federal agents arrested 13 metro Detroit residents in connection with a home health care scheme that allegedly defrauded the Medicare program of more than $14 million.
A six-count indictment that was unsealed Thursday alleges that the 13 people participated in a Medicare fraud scheme operated out of Patient Choice Home Healthcare and All American Home Care. Both are Oakland County health agencies that purported to provide in-home health services.
"They have no true intention of providing any type of legitimate medical service," said Lamont Pugh III, a Special Agent in Charge with the Department of Health and Human Services. "This is a for profit scam."
Muhammad Shahab, 50; Christopher Collins, 38; Hassan Akhtar, 26; Curtis Mallory, 35; Mohammed El-Fallal, 55; Jessica Vigil, 34; Tariq Chaudhary, 36; Faisal Chaudray, 31; and Visnhu Meda, 29, were all indicted for conspiracy to commit health care fraud. In addition, Shahab; Pramod Raval, M.D., 56; Guy Ross, 48; Lura Barrett, 61; and Stephen Cartier, 50, were charged with conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute. Shahab and Akhtar were also each charged with two counts of money laundering.
According to authorities, the companies claimed to provide therapy services to Medicare patients and billed the government for unnecessary treatment or treatment that was never actually provided.
The federal indictment seeks to forfeit the defendant's assets.
"We've gone after houses, we've gone after cars, and we've gone after jewelry," said F.B.I. Special Agent Jeffrey Jamrosz.
Shahab, Akhtar and Collins owned and operated Patient Choice and All American and between August 2007 and September 2009, the agencies billed Medicare for more than $14.5 million for services that were medically unnecessary and not provided, said federal authorities.
The indictment alleges that Collins and Mallory recruited patients and paid them kickbacks for their Medicare information and signature on documents. The false documents were then used to bill Medicare for home health services that were not performed.
The indictment also alleges that El-Fallal used the identity of a licensed physician to sign physician referrals for home health therapy services that were medically unnecessary and not performed. The indictment charges Vigil, Chaudhary, Chaudray and Meda with falsifying medical records to make it appear that home health therapy services were provided.
In addition, the indictment alleges that Shahab, Raval, Ross, Barrett and Cartier engaged in a conspiracy where Shahab would pay kickbacks to the others in exchange for patient referrals and access to Medicare beneficiaries under Raval, Ross, Barrett and Cartier's care.
Authorities said they hope Thursday's raid will discourage others.
"For whatever reason I think Southeast Michigan has become an opportune area to operate in," said F.B.I. Special Agent in Charge Andy Arena. "That's what this task force is trying to show. That this is not the place to be. Get out."
If the defendants are found guilty of violating the Anti-Kickback Statute, they could face a maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine up to $25,000 and if they are found guilty of health care fraud conspiracy, they could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
For more information on Medicare fraud, click here.
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