Apr 20, 2022 - Health

DOJ brings criminal charges in $150 million alleged COVID fraud schemes

A healthcare worker fills out a Covid-19 Vaccination Record Card

A health care worker fills out a COVID-19 vaccination record card. Photo: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Federal prosecutors have brought criminal charges against 21 people who were allegedly involved in various health care fraud schemes related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: The charges build on previous efforts by the DOJ to clamp down on pandemic-related fraud schemes.

The big picture: The defendants siphoned off more than $149 million through schemes that included overcharging for medical services and creating and selling fake vaccine cards, among other charges.

  • The 21 defendants were charged in nine federal districts across the country. In carrying out its enforcement action, the Justice Department said it seized over $8 million in cash and "other fraud proceeds."
  • The charges were brought against the defendants over the past two weeks, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Details: Several defendants allegedly used COVID-19 testing to gather patients' personal information and saliva or blood samples and then submitted claims for more expensive, unnecessary tests, according to the Department's press release.

  • In two other cases, owners of medical clinics in Maryland and New York reportedly used information gathered at COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites to submit false claims for physician visits that never occurred.
  • A medical professional in Florida took advantage of relaxed telemedicine rules to bill patients for unnecessary genetic tests and telemedicine encounters, the department found.

What they're saying: “Throughout the pandemic, we have seen trusted medical professionals orchestrate and carry out egregious crimes against their patients, all for financial gain,” said Luis Quesada, the FBI’s assistant director for the criminal investigative division, in the press release.

  • “These health care fraud abuses erode the integrity and trust patients have with those in the health care industry, particularly during a vulnerable and worrisome time for many individuals," Quesada added.
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