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Feds Charge 21 With False $149M in False Medicare Bills In Pandemic

The Justice Department accused Southern California medical lab owners of running a $144 million Medicare fraud scheme that billed thousands of patients for unnecessary medical diagnostics after luring them in with coronavirus tests, the New York Times reports. The indictment was among federal charges against 21 people across the U.S. who officials said were involved in schemes that totaled about $149 million in false Medicare billing related to the sweeping federal response to the pandemic. “While millions of Americans were suffering and desperately seeking testing and treatment for COVID-19, some saw an opportunity for profit,” said Kenneth Polite Jr., assistant attorney general for the criminal division.

The schemes included printing phony vaccination cards and selling fake test results, as well as enticing older or ailing patients to accept unneeded treatments, tests and telehealth visits in California, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Utah and Washington. The biggest case by far was one filed against two lab owners, Imran Shams and Lourdes Navarro, both 63, of Glendale, Ca., in an elaborate plan that involved paying kickbacks to telemarketers who upsold patients seeking virus testing on unnecessary blood work and urinalysis. The indictment accuses the pair of laundering their profits through shell companies controlled by Navarro and using the cash to buy “real estate, luxury items, and personal goods and services.”


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