Justice Department Makes 38 Arrests in Medicare Fraud Case
Federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced the arrest of 38 individuals in South Florida over allegations that they defrauded Medicare of more than $142 million after a more than two-month investigation by federal, state and local authorities, the Miami Herald reports.
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that the defendants paid Medicare beneficiaries for use of their card numbers to allow them to submit fraudulent claims (Clark, Miami Herald, 5/10).
The defendants used the card numbers to submit fraudulent Medicare claims for power wheelchairs, walkers or kits to test blood sugar levels, according to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt (Baltimore Sun, 5/10).
According to Gonzales, authorities used real-time computer data to detect the alleged Medicare fraud. The arrests resulted from an investigation by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a new partnership among the Department of Justice, HHS and FBI (Johnson, Washington Post, 5/10).
Gonzales said that authorities targeted their investigation in South Florida because "it is one area, among others, where we believe Medicare fraud is prevalent" (Miami Herald, 5/10).
Authorities said that they plan to expand their investigation in future months.
In the past, when authorities have attempted to detect Medicate fraud, suspected individuals and companies would end their operations "at the first hint of government scrutiny, only to open up shop again under new names," the Washington Post reports.
Gonzales said, "These fraudsters, they move quick. They operate quickly, and so we have to change our strategy, as well." Leavitt said the federal government could save as much as $2.5 billion annually through the elimination of Medicare fraud (Johnson, Washington Post, 5/10).
Leavitt said HHS is "sending a clear message" that "we're coming after" individuals who commit Medicare fraud, adding, "This kind of blatant fraud simply is intolerable" (Miami Herald, 5/10).