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Baton Rouge fraud defendant ordered to pay $43.5 million

A federal judge recently sentenced a 53-year-old woman, a marketer for two Baton Rouge psychiatric centers and the part owner of one of them, for defrauding Medicare. The Advocate reported 15 others already pleaded guilty to health care fraud charges, before the woman and a man linked to a related facility were convicted in May.

The woman co-owned Serenity Center and worked to promote Shifa Community Mental Health Center of Baton Rouge. The 48-year-old co-defendant recruited patients for an out-of-state Shifa facility. Prosecutors said the defendants and their co-conspirators filed $258.5 million in fraudulent Medicare claims over seven years, for which the government paid $43.5 million.

The female defendant, convicted of two health care fraud counts and one of conspiracy, was sentenced to a 90-month prison term and ordered to pay restitution equaling Medicare's losses. The male defendant, guilty of single counts of health care fraud conspiracy and kickback conspiracy, was given a 60-month term with restitution of $3.2 million.

The defendants allegedly recruited Medicare recipients from assisted-living facilities, nursing homes and group homes to take part in unneeded Serenity and Shifa psychiatric programs. The woman apparently also had the recruited individuals committed to psychiatric hospitals and later shifted them to Shifa centers. Prosecutors said the woman ordered Shifa staff members to alter patient records and intercept bills to hide evidence of unperformed services.

The male defendant reportedly was paid $1,500 cash each week to get Medicare recipients to participate in the psychiatric programs. In turn, the recruiter paid the participants $75 weekly, also in cash. The out-of-state man also told participants what symptoms to report to gain entry to the mental health programs.

Health care fraud is a non-violent crime, but the government imposes severe penalties. The government does not spare any expense to prosecute defendants. All the more reason to retain the services of an attorney prepared to defend and protect you.

Source: The Shreveport Times, "2 get prison for roles in $258.5M Medicare fraud scheme" Oct. 31, 2014

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