21 people charged in alleged COVID fraud schemes totaling $150M

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The Department of Justice announced federal criminal charges Tuesday against morw than 20 people for alleged participation in fraud schemes during the COVID-19 pandemic, the total of which amounted to about $150 million in losses.

The Department of Justice said in a statement published on Wednesday that several of the defendants were charged in connection to schemes that asked patients to provide their personal information and a saliva or blood sample for COVID-19 testing. They then used this information to submit alleged false and fraudulent claims to Medicare services.

In one scheme, two defendants who are owners of a California-based clinical laboratory were charged with a health care fraud, kickback, and money laundering scheme that involved filing false claims for over $214 million for laboratory tests and filing $125 million of false claims during the pandemic for COVID-19 and respiratory pathogen tests. 

Two other defendants allegedly obtained confidential information from patients seeking COVID-19 tests at local drive-thrus and used the information to submit fraudulent claims for lengthy office visits with the patients that never occurred.

Authorities noted that proceeds from the fraudulent schemes were laundered through U.S.-based  shell corporations, transferred to foreign countries and used to purchase real estate and luxury items.

“The Department of Justice’s Health Care Fraud Unit and our partners are dedicated to rooting out schemes that have exploited the pandemic,” Department Of Justice Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. said in a statement. “Today’s enforcement action reinforces our commitment to using all available tools to hold accountable medical professionals, corporate executives, and others who have placed greed above care during an unprecedented public health emergency.”

Three other defendants were charged for their alleged involvement in a scheme to sell homeoprophylaxis immunizations for COVID-19 and falsify vaccination cards.

An additional two defendants were charged for allegedly targeting the Provider Relief Fund, which is a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, providing financial assistance to medical providers to provide needed medical care to those stricken with COVID-19, court documents said. 

The Department of Justice said it has seized over $8 million in cash and other fraud proceeds from its investigation.

Tags COVID-19 COVID-19 pandemic COVID-19 vaccines Department of Justice Department of Justice DOJ U.S. Department of Justice

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