Just before his Medicare fraud trial was to start, a Florida man who helped recruit telemedicine doctors as part of a $73 million genetic testing scheme to defraud Medicare pleaded guilty to receiving kickbacks.
Michael Stein admitted that he, through his company 1523 Holdings LLC, agreed to receive $50,000 per month in exchange for recruiting and onboarding telehealth practitioners. The Medicare fraud scheme consists of illegal monthly kickback payments disguised as IT-related consulting services. In exchange for his plea, the government agreed to dismiss four other healthcare fraud counts against Stein.
Stein was among 14 defendants charged in May 2021 for their alleged participation in various healthcare fraud schemes that exploited the COVID-19 pandemic and resulted in more than $143 million in false billings.
In the alleged healthcare fraud scheme Stein received kickbacks from Leonel Palatnik, co-owner of Panda Conservation Group LLC, in exchange for arranging for telemedicine providers to authorize medically unnecessary cancer and cardiovascular genetic testing orders for Panda’s laboratories.
According to the complaint, healthcare providers who had no prior relationship with the Medicare beneficiaries were recruited and paid kickbacks and bribes to order the genetic testing for which they signed certifications stating they were the patient’s treating physician. Medicare paid the providers more than $550,000 in this Medicare fraud scheme.
The two companies were alleged to have exploited temporary waivers to telehealth restrictions enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic, which were supposed to make it easier for Medicare recipients to receive care from home through telemedicine. As we first wrote about in July 2020, COVID-related healthcare fraud began within months of the start of the pandemic.
In September 2021, Palatnik pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and offer kickbacks and one count of paying a kickback. As part of that plea agreement, Palatnik
admitted that he paid $50,000 a month in kickbacks to Stein. In November 2021, he was sentenced to 82 months in prison.
Stein, who faces up to five years in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 13. At that time the judge will also determine how much money he must repay the government along with any fines.
The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale has been representing clients under investigation for more than 30 years. Our long-standing experience allows us to help clients to prepare for an investigation and to limit liability and minimize potential damage. For more information call us at 305-358-4500 or email email@example.com.