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October 15, 2019

Otolaryngologist Dr. Tracey Wellendorf has agreed to pay $1 million to resolve allegations of violating the False Claims Act in at least 115 procedures billed to Iowa Medicaid.  The alleged misconduct occurred between 2014 and 2015 and involved endoscopic sinus surgeries that were either medically unnecessary or incorrectly coded.  USAO NDIA

October 15, 2019

Nederland Shipping Company and Chartworld Shipping Company, the Liberia-incorporated owners and operators of a the cargo ship M/V NEDERLAND REEFER, have agreed to pay $1.8 million for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS).  During a Coast Guard inspection of the ship at a port in Delaware, inspectors found that chief engineer Vasileios Mazarakis was routinely tricking an oil content monitoring device into discharging oily water at sea before it could be processed by an Oily Water Separator (OWS), then falsifying the ship’s Oil Record Book (ORB).  Mazarakis eventually plead guilty to falsifying the ORB as well as obstructing the Coast Guard’s investigation.  The companies will be placed on a four-year probation period to ensure that company ships entering U.S. waters comply with applicable maritime laws.  The APPS has a whistleblower reward provisions that incentivizes the reporting of this sort of illegal activity. DOJ

October 10, 2019

A Maryland-based man has been sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in a $396 million Ponzi scheme, the largest ever charged in Maryland.  Unbeknownst to hundreds of victim investors, the consumer debt portfolios they invested in through Kevin Merrill and co-conspirators Jay Ledford and Cameron Jezierski were fake, with Merrill, Ledford, and Jezierski going to great lengths to keep up the illusion.  The trio created imposter companies and bank accounts, fake documents, and invited would-be investors to tours of their Texas “office.”  By the time they were arrested in 2018, the scheme had raked in over $396 million, with another $260 million pending.  As part of his sentence, Merrill has also been ordered to pay restitution of at least $189 millionUSAO MD; SEC

October 10, 2019

A billboard licensing company that manages licenses in New York, Texas, Minnesota, and Missouri has agreed to pay $2.85 million to resolve fraud allegations.  In 2009 and 2011, All Vision LLC entered into contracts with USPS to manage licenses and collect payments on land that USPS leases out to billboard companies.  As part of the contract, All Vision had agreed to forward lease payments, less fees, to USPS in a timely manner, but allegedly withheld at least $8 million in payments while misrepresenting the actual amounts collected.  All Vision has since repaid over $5.2 million; the $2.85 million settlement will resolve all remaining claims.  USAO CO

October 10, 2019

Traverse Anesthesia Associates, P.C. (TAA) and six of its anesthesiologists have agreed to pay $607,966 to resolve a partially-intervened qui tam lawsuit jointly filed by two former employees.  In violation of the False Claims Act, TAA allegedly failed to meet regulatory requirements and conditions of payment in submissions to Medicare.  The unnamed whistleblowers will share a $120,000 award.  USAO WDMI

October 9, 2019

Genetic testing company UTC Laboratories, Inc. (RenRX), along with three principals, have agreed to pay a combined $42.6 million to settle six suits alleging violations of the Anti-Kickback Statue and False Claims Act.  Between 2013 and 2017, RenRX and principals Tarun Jolly, M.D., Patrick Ridgeway, and Barry Griffith allegedly paid cash bribes to physician entities and individuals to induce orders of medically unnecessary pharmacogenetic tests that were subsequently billed to Medicare.  As part of the settlement, RenRX also agreed to a twenty-five year period of exclusion from participating in any federal healthcare program.  USAO EDLA

October 9, 2019

The largest operator of kidney dialysis clinics in the United States has agreed to pay $5.2 million to resolve a lawsuit alleging it submitted false claims to Medicare for excessive and unnecessary immune tests.  From 2013 to 2010, Fresenius Medical Care Holdings, Inc. allegedly billed Medicare for Hepatitis B surface antigen tests it performed on patients already known to be immune, at a frequency well above that established by Medicare.  For exposing the alleged False Claims Act violations, former employee Christopher Drennen will receive a 27.5% share of the recovery.  USAO MA

October 7, 2019

Following self-disclosure in 2017 and a subsequent government investigation, Drexel University has agreed to pay $189,062 to resolve its potential liability under the False Claims Act in connection with misused grants funds from the Department of Energy, the Department of the Navy, and the National Science Foundation.  Over the course of ten years, the head of the university’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Dr. Chikaodinaka D. Nwankpa, improperly spent funds from eight federal grants on personal expenses, including gentlemen clubs and sports bars.  Dr. Nwankpa eventually agreed to repay $53,328 to Drexel and resign from his position, while Drexel has since implemented policies to prevent similar misconduct.  USAO EDPA

October 4, 2019

Zaldy Sabino, formerly a contracting officer with the U.S. State Department, has been convicted of charges related to contracting fraud.  Sabino received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from the owner of a construction firm in Turkey that had multiple multi-million dollar contracts with the State Department.  Sentencing is set for February, 2020.  DOJ

October 4, 2019

Florida man Brock Lovelace has been sentenced to nearly six years in federal prison following his conviction at trial on charges related to his payment of kickbacks to medical clinics in the Miami area in exchange for the clinics providing him with DNA samples for submission to a DNA testing laboratory between 2013 and 2014.  Lovelace requested that the medical clinics collect the DNA of all the patients who visited the clinics; in turn, the clinics provided food and other inducements to beneficiaries to get them to visit.  Lovelace then submitted the DNA swabs to a testing lab, which billed Medicare.  The patients were not provided with the results of the DNA testing, and typically did not have any medical need for the DNA testing.  Lovelace was previously sentenced to 14 years in prison on other healthcare fraud charges; he will serve the present sentence consecutively.  DOJ
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