As part of what federal officials are calling the “largest national Medicare fraud takedown in history,” they announced the apprehension of 16 Metro Detroit health care officials allegedly involved in fraud and kickback schemes totaling over $122 million.
The arrests were part of a nationwide sweep that resulted in charges against 243 individuals, including 46 doctors, nurses and other license medical professionals, accused of bilking the government with $712 million in false billings.
In Metro Detroit, the arrested included six doctors, a social worker, a pharmacist and two physical therapists. According to officials, the schemes involved medical services that were unnecessary or never rendered, including hospice and home health care plus the billing, but not dispersal, of drugs.
“Health care fraud has been pervasive throughout Metro Detroit in recent years at great cost to the American taxpayer,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said. “We hope that cases like these will alert doctors, pharmacists and other providers that criminal investigators are now scrutinizing billing records so that we can detect fraud and hold wrongdoers accountable.”
Authorities said the owners of home health care and hospice companies in Metro Detroit, two of whom are physical therapists, allegedly paid kickbacks to doctors and recruiters for referring patients to them, then billed Medicare for unnecessary services.
Federal officials said two physicians — Dr. Waseem Alam, 59, of Troy and Dr. Hatem Ataya, 47, of Flushing —solicited kickbacks and submitted false claims to Medicare through their company, Woodward Urgent Care, in Bloomfield Hills.
The physicians who allegedly solicited and received kickback also submitted claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary physician services through their companies, identified as A Plus Hospice and Palliative Care, At Home Hospice and At Home Network, Inc., all of which are located in Livonia.
Along with Alam and Ataya, the other defendants charged in the indictment are Shahid Tahir, 45, of Bloomfield Township, Muhammad Tariq, 60, of West Bloomfield Township, Manawar Javed, 40, of West Bloomfield Township.
The government has also charged four people, including a physician and three owners of home health care companies, with wire fraud and conspiracy to pay or receive health care kickbacks.
Federal officials identified them as Dr. William Bind, 58, Muhammad Zafar, 43, of Brownstown Township, Tariq Khan, 47, of Woodhaven, and Ghulam Shakir, 43.
The government has also charged Dr. Gerald Daneshvar, 39, of West Bloomfield, for his alleged part in a more than $5 million conspiracy to commit health care fraud by referring non-homebound patients for health care services as well as billing for physicians through Lake MI Mobile Doctors, P.C.
Dr. Laran Lerner, 59, of Northville, and Mohamad Bazzi, 42, of Dearborn, a licensed pharmacist and pharmacy owner, have been charged in a $24 million health care fraud scheme.
Federal officials said Lerner provided medically unnecessary prescriptions for expensive pharmaceuticals for which Bazzi’s pharmacy, Advanced Pharmacy Services in Oak Park, which would then bill Medicare but not dispense the drugs.
Lerner is also accused of billing for unnecessary physician visits and referred beneficiaries for medically unnecessary home health care services through his clinic Greater Detroit Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation in Westland.
Dr. Rizwan Qadir, 52, of Bloomfield Hills was charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and to pay or received kickbacks in a $19 million Medicare fraud scheme.
Johnny Younan, 52, of Centerline, was charged as a recruiter within a conspiracy to pay or receive health care kickbacks to a physician, who would also prescribe Medicare beneficiaries controlled substances as an inducement to provide their Medicare information for billing.
Licensed social worker Celestine Brown, 50, of Ypsilanti has been charged with one count of health care fraud and one count of structuring in connection with her role in a $3.8 million scheme to defraud Medicare through the submission of false claims for psychotherapy services that were never rendered.
Tamara Brown, 42, of Southfield has been charged for her alleged participation in a $1.3 million kickback conspiracy. The complaint alleges that Brown solicited and received kickbacks from two Detroit area home health care agencies, Cherish Home Health Services, LLC, in Sterling Heights, Wayne and Inkster, and Empirical Home Health Care, Inc., in Farmington Hills, in return for providing patient referrals from a physician.