The Department of Justice announced Thursday it has charged eight people in Los Angeles with bilking Medicare out of about $66 million.
The charges are part of a national fraud sweep that resulted in charges that nearly 250 people participated in schemes that racked up about $712 million in false Medicare billings.
Nationwide, defendants are charged with crimes including conspiracy to commit health care fraud, violations of anti-kickback statutes, money laundering and aggravated identity theft. The alleged schemes involved overbilling or fraudulent billing for medical treatments and services such as home health care, physical therapy, power wheelchairs and pharmacy fraud.
“This action represents the largest criminal health care fraud takedown in the history of the Department of Justice,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a statement. “The defendants charged include doctors, patient recruiters, home health care providers, pharmacy owners and others. They billed for equipment that wasn’t provided, for care that wasn’t needed, and for services that weren’t rendered.”
In one of the local cases, East Hollywood clinic owner and operator Dr. Joseph R. Altamirano is charged with submitting about $33 million in fraudulent Medicare claims for physical therapy and other services as well as prescriptions for items such as power wheelchairs that were not medically necessary.
Altamirano did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Other locals charged with bilking Medicare out of smaller sums include other clinic owners, a person impersonating a doctor and a marketing operative.
The Affordable Care Act has provided an additional $350 million for health care fraud prevention and enforcement, allowing the Justice Department to hire more prosecutors and expand its Medicare Fraud Strike Force, jointly run with the Department of Health and Human Services.
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