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Government Enforcement Actions

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March 29, 2023

Michigan-based Covenant Healthcare System and two physicians, neurosurgeon Dr. Mark Adams and electrophysiologist Dr. Asim Yunus, have agreed to pay $69 million and about $406,500 and $346,000 respectively to resolve allegations of violating the Anti-Kickback Statute, Stark Law, and False Claims Act.  Covenant allegedly provided Dr. Yunus and five other physicians medical directorship roles, employed Dr. Adams, forgave rent payments from another physician, and permitted a physician group to secure a lease on advantageous terms in exchange for referrals.  Covenant then submitted false claims based on those referrals to Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE.  The claims were first raised by Dr. Stacy Goldsholl in a qui tam suit; Goldsholl will receive over $12 million from the three settlements.  USAO EDMI

March 29, 2023

A man who led a scheme to defraud New York’s Medicaid program has been sentenced to almost 8 years in prison, ordered to pay $8.5 million in restitution, and ordered to forfeit $8.5 million in ill-gotten gains.  While supervising more than a dozen others affiliated with KJ Transportation C Services Inc. (“KJ”), Julio Alvarado submitted or caused to be submitted false claims for transportation services to Medicaid beneficiaries, for which KJ was ultimately paid $20 million.  However, in many of those cases, the beneficiary was deceased or out of the country at the time of the alleged transport, or had never heard of or taken rides with KJ.  In other instances, the beneficiary received kickbacks from KJ in exchange for their Medicaid information.  USAO SDNY

March 28, 2023

One of the largest iron ore producers in the world, Brazilian mining company Vale S.A., has agreed to pay $55.9 million to settle charges of making false and misleading disclosures concerning the stability of its dams.  One of the dams in particular, Brumadinho, failed to meet international safety standards and subsequently collapsed in January 2019, killing 270 people.  The settlement consists of $25 million in civil penalties and disgorgement, and $30.9 million in pre-judgment interest.  SEC

March 27, 2023

Laboratory Corporation of America (“Labcorp”) has agreed to pay $2.1 million to settle a lawsuit by former employee Donna Hecker-Gross, who alleged that Labcorp overbilled the Department of Defense for genetic tests performed by a third party.  Under a 2012 contract, Labcorp was to perform laboratory testing for military treatment facilities worldwide, but certain specialized tests would be performed by subcontractor GeneDx.  However, when billing the Department of Defense for tests performed by GeneDx, LabCorp allegedly overcharged for them, double or triple billed for them, or billed for them even in the absence of evidence the tests were ever performed.  For initiating a successful enforcement action, Hecker-Gross will receive a $357,000 relator’s share.  USAO MD

March 24, 2023

Michael Alan Stollery, the CEO and founder of purported cryptocurrency investment platform Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services Inc. (“TBIS”), has been sentenced to over 4 years in prison.  According to the DOJ, Stollery failed to register TBIS’s ICO with the SEC and falsified information on TBIS’s website and white papers, including information about TBIS’s prospects for profitability, client testimonials, and business relationships.  Additionally, he misappropriated client funds to pay off personal expenses.  DOJ

March 24, 2023

Tony and Charles Gonzalez, two brothers behind a telemarketing scam operating under the companies American Vehicle Protection Corp. (“AVP”), CG3 Solutions, Inc., and Tony Gonzalez Consulting Group, have been banned for life from participating in the extended automobile warranty industry and all outbound telemarketing, and ordered to pay a suspended $6.6 million in monetary judgment.  An order found the companies violated the FTC Act and Telemarketing Sales Rule by making unsolicited calls to hundreds of thousands of customers on the FTC’s Do Not Call List, then tricking them into paying thousands of dollars for “bumper to bumper” warranty protection.  FTC

March 23, 2023

The co-founder of formerly registered investment adviser International Investment Group (IIG), Martin Silver, has been ordered to pay over $2.3 million in disgorgement and over $240,000 in prejudgment interest, which will be deemed satisfied upon the payment of restitution and forfeit of assets ordered in a parallel criminal proceeding against him in the Southern District of New York.  Silver was found to have grossly overvalued the assets in IIG’s flagship hedge fund, and falsely reported that certain loan assets were legitimate and fairly valued when in fact they were not.  SEC

March 23, 2023

A Maryland man named John Erasmus Frimpong has been sentenced to 9.5 years in prison and, along with his co-defendants, ordered to pay almost $17.5 million in restitution for operating a $28 million Ponzi scheme through a purported wealth management company called 1st Million LLC.  As part of his plea agreement, Frimpong admitted to making false and misleading statements to investors, including statements regarding the experience, training, and licensure of the company’s principals, the existence of a “trust” through which investors’ principles would be protected and returned in full, the investment’s rates of return, and the source of payments to investors.  USAO MD

March 23, 2023

One of the largest debt collectors in the country, Portfolio Recovery Associates, will pay more than $24 million to settle claims that it violated the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act, the Consumer Financial Protection Act, and a 2015 CFPB order by continuing to employ illegal debt collection tactics.  According to the press release, some of the illegal tactics used included threatening consumers with legal action or initiating debt collection lawsuits while failing to possess proper documentation about debts; failing to timely send documentation about debts, resolve disputes, or inform consumers about investigation outcomes; and collecting and suing on debts beyond statutes of limitations.  CFPB

March 22, 2023

The owner of a Florida-based insurance company has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for defrauding customers of $4.8 million.  For over seven years, John Thomas of Thomas Insurance, LLC diverted customer insurance premiums to his personal accounts but failed to actually open insurance policies for customers.  He then regularly produced fraudulent documents to customers, referencing their nonexistent policies, in order to conceal his actions.  USAO NDFL
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