Federal prosecutors are back targeting health care fraud in Los Angeles, returning there with a team of government lawyers and investigators to shut down fraudulent billing schemes that now allegedly involve street gang members, Justice Department officials said today.
Twenty defendants have been charged in five indictments for alleged schemes that bilked Medicare of $25 million in fraudulent billings, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer told reporters this afternoon at the Justice Department. Charges have been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Breuer said six defendants were in custody.
“We simply cannot permit this brazen activity, which is really appalling, to continue. And we’re not going to permit it,” Breuer said. “We’re not going to permit those who masquerade themselves as health care providers to defraud the American people.”
The schemes allegedly involve fraudulent billings for such things as power wheelchairs. Los Angeles was targeted based on a real-time analysis of suspicious billings, he said.
Breuer and Timothy Menke, the deputy inspector general for investigations at the Department of Health and Human Services, said at least one scheme in Los Angeles involved members of the Lil Brook street gang. Menke said members of the gang set up straw companies to increase fake billings.
The return to Los Angeles with a Medicare strike force follows two major prosecutions in Detroit and Houston earlier this year. Justice prosecutors first set their sights on Miami in 2007 and launched a strike force targeting Los Angeles in 2008. “Our goal, really, is to focus on the worst offenders,” Breuer said.