The FBI has arrested three doctors and doctors "professional patients" in Brooklyn for allegedly submitting thousands of bogus medical claims to Medicare and Medicaid. Prosecutors said the doctors and their clinics stole more than $80 million from taxpayers.
The local arrests are part of the largest Medicare fraud bust ever. Dozens of suspects accused in scams totaling $251 million were busted in five states, authorities said.
In one Brooklyn office, the doctors had set up a "cash kickback room" to pay patients for allowing them to submit false bills to the government health programs. The so-called "kickback" room had a poster on the wall resembling Soviet-era propaganda, showing a woman with a finger to her lips and two messages in Russian: "Don't Gossip" and "Be on the lookout: In these days, the walls talk."
With the surveillance, the walls "had ears and they had eyes," U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said at a news conference in Brooklyn.
Lynch said at the Bay Medical clinic alone, more than $70 million was fraudulently billed. Prosecutors said at times doctors billed thousands of procedures for just a single patient.
'Those who would defraud these programs not only hurt some of the most needy and vulnerable, but indirectly impact all Americans,' Lynch said.
The raids in Brooklyn were part of a nationwide crackdown by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force that also conducted raids in Miami, Detroit and Houston. The defendants in Brooklyn were expected to appear in court on the charges Friday afternoon.
Cleaning up an estimated $60 billion to $90 billion a year in Medicare fraud will be key to paying for President Barack Obama's proposed health care overhaul. Federal officials have promised more money and manpower to fight fraud, setting up strike forces in several cities.
Around the country, the schemes have morphed from the typical medical equipment scam in which clinic owners billed Medicare dozens of times for the same wheelchair, while never giving the medical equipment to patients. Now, officials say, the schemes involve a sophisticated network of doctors, clinic owners, patients and patient recruiters.
Violent criminals and mobsters are also tapping into the scams, seeing Medicare fraud as more lucrative than dealing drugs and having less severe criminal penalties, officials said