WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 Troy, Mich., resident Syed Aziz pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Detroit to participating in a conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg of the Eastern District of Michigan and Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced.
In his plea today, Aziz, a licensed physical therapist, admitted that he began working in approximately May 2005 as a contract therapist for a co-conspirator, Suresh Chand. Chand owned and controlled several companies operating in the Detroit area that purported to provide physical and occupational therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries. Aziz admitted that he, Chand, and others created fictitious therapy files appearing to document physical and occupational therapy services provided to Medicare beneficiaries, when in fact no such services were provided. According to court documents, the fictitious services reflected in the files were billed to Medicare through sham Medicare providers controlled by co-conspirators.
Chand admitted to paying cash kickbacks and other inducements to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for the beneficiaries' Medicare numbers and signatures on documents falsely indicating that they had received physical or occupational therapy. Chand pleaded guilty on Sept. 28, 2009, in U.S. District Court in Detroit to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to launder money. Aziz admitted that he was one of the licensed physical or occupational therapists from whom Chand obtained signatures on fictitious "progress notes" and other documents falsely indicating that the therapists had provided services to the Medicare beneficiaries.
Aziz also admitted that during the course of the scheme, he signed approximately 400 fictitious physical therapy files, indicating that he had provided physical therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries, when in fact he had not. Aziz admitted that he was paid between $70 and $90 for each file he falsified. Aziz also admitted that between approximately May 2005 and December 2006, he falsified physical therapy files that supported claims to the Medicare program totaling approximately $1,895,000. According to court documents, Medicare paid approximately $817,000 on those claims. Aziz admitted that throughout the conspiracy he was fully aware that Medicare was being billed for physical therapy services that he falsely indicated he had performed.
At sentencing, scheduled for Feb. 3, 2010, Aziz faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys John K. Neal, Gejaa T. Gobena and Benjamin Singer of the Criminal Division's Fraud Section and by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas W. Beimers of the Eastern District of Michigan. The FBI and the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) conducted the investigation. The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division's Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Since the inception of Strike Force operations in March 2007 -- Miami (Phase One), Los Angeles (Phase Two), Detroit (Phase Three) and Houston (Phase Four) -- the Strike Force has obtained indictments of more than 331 individuals and organizations that collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $720 million. In addition, HHS's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
Each of the Strike Force teams across the separate phases is led by a federal prosecutor from the Criminal Division's Fraud Section or the U.S. Attorney's Office. Each team has an agent from the FBI and HHS-OIG.
To learn more about theHealth Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice