As a former federal prosecutor in Chicago, I am well acquainted with the phrase “takedowns.” For the unwary, a subject-area “takedown” is a practice used by federal prosecutors to send a message to a given industry. Prosecutors investigate and prepare to charge cases in a given industry sector and then release the charges nationally on the same day along with a press release. The idea is that such public “takedowns” serve as a deterrent to future criminal activity in the industry. For example, almost every April 15th, prosecutors across the country release charges in dozens of tax-fraud cases.
Recently, this practice has expanded into the healthcare industry. See more on the The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General website. In June 2016, there was the largest healthcare fraud takedown in DOJ history – prosecutors charged more than 300 defendants in 36 federal judicial districts (and this does not even include civil fraud investigations).
To read the full text of this blog post, please visit the Duane Morris White-Collar Criminal Law Blog.
On Tuesday, January 19, a federal judge in Texas sentenced Patricia Akamnonu to 10 years in federal prison for her role in a conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. Akamnonu and her husband, Cyprian Akamnonu, who together owned Ultimate Care Home Health Services, pleaded guilty to their role in the conspiracy, which involved them and others recruiting Medicare beneficiaries for treatment at Ultimate and then billing for skilled nursing services that the beneficiaries either did not qualify for or were not necessary. Mr. Akamnonu is currently serving out a similar 10-year sentence, and both were ordered to each pay $25 million in restitution.
The conspiracy, which raked in $40 million plus for Ultimate and $375 million for all of the co-conspirators, is considered one of the largest healthcare frauds in history. Dr. Jacques Roy, who certified more than 78% of the false claims submitted to Medicare by Ultimate and the Akamnonus, is scheduled to be tried for his role in the conspiracy in May 2016, and faces a possible life sentence.
A reminder to providers that healthcare fraud can carry stiff criminal and civil penalties.