DOJ Announces $150 Million COVID-19 Health Care Fraud Takedown Under Nationwide Coordinated Enforcement Action
On April 20, 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced, in Press Release No. 22-403, the nationwide coordinated law enforcement action to combat health-care-related COVID-19 fraud. Specifically, the DOJ revealed criminal charges – including health care fraud, illegal kickbacks, money laundering, wire fraud, theft of government property, making false statements, and aggravated identity theft – against 21 defendants in multi-state federal districts courts. These cases assert allegations (see summary of criminal charges) resulting in nearly $150 million in COVID-19-related false billings to federal programs and theft from federally funded pandemic assistance programs.
The DOJ’s enforcement action targets individuals including medical professionals, office managers, distributers, pharmacy directors, corporate executives, and owners of laboratories and wellness centers. Notably, owners and operators in the laboratory space were indicted with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, conspiracy to pay and payment of illegal kickbacks and bribes to marketers who obtained specimens and test orders, false statements to Medicare, and money laundering through shell companies.
This enforcement action is the result of investigative efforts governed by the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, established by the attorney general on May 17, 2021, to marshal the resources of the DOJ in partnership with varied governmental agencies to prevent pandemic-related fraud. The assistant attorney general criminal chief stated that this 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.”
Since the creation of the Task Force, this enforcement action is considered the first and largest coordinated takedown in DOJ history. Thus, it may be a prelude to additional actions to address health care-related COVID-19 fraud during the pandemic.