The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in yet another avenue to perpetuate fraud within the healthcare arena. Most recently, the U.S. Department of Justice announced criminal charges had been filed against 21 people in nine federal districts for their alleged participation in various schemes that exploited the pandemic to the tune of $149 million. Cities involved include Miami and Port Saint Lucie.
The cases varied in nature and involved everything from fraud related to telemedicine to making and selling fraudulent vaccine records. Here’s a quick rundown of the cases.
Southern District of Florida
Elizabeth Mercedes Hernandez, 43, an ARNP in Miami, and her co-conspirators allegedly took advantage of Medicare’s relaxed telemedicine rules during the pandemic by signing doctor’s orders for medically unnecessary genetic testing and durable medical equipment in exchange for kickbacks. Their alleged actions resulted in the submission of more than $134 million dollars of false and fraudulent claims to Medicare.
Jason Edward Lopez, 38, of Port Saint Lucie was charged in connection with allegedly billing Medicare for $2.6 million worth of medically unnecessary doctors’ orders for durable medical equipment and submitting a false application for $105,800 of COVID-19 relief funding.
Central District of California
Imran Shams and Lourdes Navarro, both 63, of Glendale, California, were charged for their roles in an alleged scheme to defraud Medicare of more than $214 million for laboratory tests, including nearly $144 million in false and fraudulent claims during the COVID-19 health emergency for COVID-19 and respiratory pathogen tests that were submitted without regard to medical necessity.
Artur Chanchikyan, 54, of Los Angeles, was charged in connection with an alleged scheme to defraud the United States of approximately $345,000 in COVID-19 relief funding. Chanchikyan, the owner and operator of a home health agency, allegedly filed fraudulent loan applications with seeking COVID-19 relief funds, falsely attested to the use of additional funds provided under the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund, and then misused the funds for his own personal use and the benefit of others.
Northern District of California
Jason Costanza, 46, of El Campo, Texas, was charged connection with an alleged scheme to offer fake cures for COVID-19 and distribute fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards.
Jaimi Jansen, 40, of Santa Cruz, California, was charged in connection with an alleged scheme to offer fake cures for COVID-19 and distribute fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards.
Ranna Shamiya, 41, a licensed advanced practice pharmacist in Ukiah, California, was charged in connection with an alleged scheme to offer fake cures for COVID-19 and distribute fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards.
Jason Nielsen, 53, of Scotts Valley, California was charged in connection with an alleged scheme to defraud investors and potential investors in Arrayit, a publicly traded medical technology company.
District of Maryland
Ron K. Elfenbein, 47, of Arnold, Maryland, was in connection with an alleged scheme to defraud the United States of more than $1.5 million in claims that were billed in connection with COVID-19 testing. He allegedly instructed employees of Drs ERgent Care to submit claims to Medicare and other insurers for moderate-complexity office visits even though Elfenbein knew that for some or all of the COVID-19 testing patients those visits lasted five minutes or less.
District of New Jersey
Lisa Hammell, 39, of Turnersville, New Jersey, an employee of the U.S. Postal Service, was charged in connection with identification documents for her role in creating and distributing to others fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination record cards. Hammell allegedly sold at least 400 fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards to unvaccinated people.
Abid Syed, Tariq Din, Tamer Mohamed, Abdul Rauf, Tauqir Khan, and Nisim Davydov, all of New Jersey, were charged in an alleged scheme to defraud Medicare by paying illegal kickbacks and bribes of more than $250,000 for laboratory tests for COVID-19 pathogen tests.
Eastern District of New York
Cardiologist Dr. Perry Frankel, 64, of Roslyn, New York, was charged in connection with an alleged scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid of more than $1.3 million in claims that were billed during the COVID-19 health emergency in connection with COVID-19 testing. Frankel allegedly caused the submission of claims to Medicare and Medicaid for office visits that were not performed for patients who received COVID-19 tests.
Western District of Tennessee
Raymond Earl Vallier, 52, of Collierville, Tennessee was charged in connection with a scheme to unlawfully convert CARES Act Provider Relief Fund monies. Vallier was the former owner and operator of a hospice care center, which received $107,568.03 from the Provider Relief Fund nearly a year after it had ceased seeing patients and billing Medicare and Medicaid.
Western District of Washington
Robert Van Camp, 53, of Parker, Colorado, was charged in connection with an alleged scheme to produce and sell fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards which he sold to buyers and distributors in at least a dozen states. Van Camp allegedly made thousands of dollars from the sales some of which he sold for $175 each.
District of Utah
Linda Tufui Toli, 28, of Salt Lake City, a former employee of the pre-flight COVID testing service “XpresCheck” in the Salt Lake City International Airport allegedly intercepted calls from travelers who were seeking COVID testing services from XpresCheck prior to traveling to destinations such as Hawaii, Israel, and other locations which required travelers to provide negative COVID test results prior to departure. Toli allegedly canceled the travelers COVID tests through XpresCheck and arranged for them to buy counterfeit negative COVID tests from her.
In addition, the Center for Program Integrity, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CPI/CMS) separately announced that it took another 28 administrative actions against providers for their alleged involvement in fraud, waste, and abuse schemes related to the delivery of care for COVID-19, as well as schemes capitalizing on the public health emergency.
We have written numerous Covid-19 related fraud blogs since the pandemic began which can be found here.
The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale can assist you should you become the target of a healthcare fraud investigation. For more information contact us at 305-358-4500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.