U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn of the Eastern District of Maryland has sentenced Detroit-area resident Tariq Mahmud, 54, to 84 months in prison for his leading role in a $3 million Medicare fraud scheme according to a Department of Justice press release. In addition to his prison term, Mahmud was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution, joint and several with his co-defendants.
Mahmud was convicted by a federal jury on Feb. 2, 2012, after a four-day trial, of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and six counts of health care fraud. Mahmud was charged along with four other defendants in an indictment unsealed on Feb. 17, 2011, as part of a nationwide Medicare fraud takedown, and subsequently in a superseding indictment on Dec. 28, 2011. The four other defendants have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced.
As part of the scheme, Medicare beneficiaries were paid cash kickbacks and given prescription drugs to sign forms and visit sheets that were later falsified to indicate that they received therapy services that were never provided. Physical and occupational therapists created false evaluations, progress notes and discharge papers indicating that the therapy services were given, when in fact they never were. Evidence at trial showed that the therapists never met the beneficiaries and Mahmud never provided or supervised the therapy billed to Medicare.
In addition to submitting more than $3 million in false therapy claims, Mahmud made additional false statements to Medicare regarding services that were never rendered. For instance, when Medicare inquired regarding a beneficiary who complained that he had not received the services for which CRS billed Medicare, Mahmud returned the payment and told Medicare that he consulted with his professional staff and the beneficiary had not been satisfied with services. In fact, CRS had no professional staff; the therapists who signed the beneficiary’s file never rendered any services; and the beneficiary never received services. Evidence at trial established that the beneficiary’s identity was stolen and used by CRS and a fraudulent file-making company to bill Medicare (DOJ press release)
The Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, was created in March, 2007 and has discovered and charged more than 1,330 defendants. These, altogether, have accounted for over $4 billion dollars in fraudulent Medicare claims. The Health and Human Services and Office of the Inspector General are working with the HHS’s Medicare and Medicaid Centers to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
With the precarious condition of our Social Security funds, all citizens need to report any suspicion of fraudulent activities, from any sources which submit claims to Medicare and/or Medicaid. Whether it be physicians, hospitals, druggists, or suppliers of other physical therapy or equipment.