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Georgia is Ground Zero for Telemedicine Fraud

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia has become a leader in telemedicine fraud enforcement since 2019. Today’s press release by the Department of Justice, announcing a historic nationwide health care fraud enforcement action involving 345 charged defendants across 51 federal districts, is just the latest evidence of this. The DOJ credited the Southern District with a minimum of ten newly charged defendants, most of who are facing health care fraud and telemedicine related allegations. Only two other U.S. Attorney’s Offices had a greater impact on this newest DOJ takedown. 

The Southern District’s has made itself an integral part of each of the Department’s telehealth fraud takedowns. As the U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine noted at a February 5, 2020 conference, the Southern District of Georgia was ranked third in the country, out of 93 total districts, for the most health care fraud prosecutions in 2019. This relatively small U.S. Attorney’s Office was able to outperform most of its counterparts across the country due in large part to Operation Brace Yourself and Operation Double Helix. During these two historic takedowns, more than 30 defendants—including durable medical equipment company owners, doctors, patient brokers, laboratory owners, physician recruiters, and telemedicine company executives—were charged in the Southern District of Georgia alone.

Over a year later, the Southern District of Georgia has made one thing clear—it has no intention of slowing down. The District’s health care fraud prosecutions remain inordinately high with Telehealth defendants bearing the brunt of the District’s prosecutorial efforts. As Polsinelli previously reported, the Southern District charged a California DME operator in April 2020, accusing him of conspiring to pay kickbacks to physicians in exchange for obtaining physicians orders for DME. This was the 22nd defendant charged by the SDGA in an estimated $410 million telehealth fraud scheme—the largest fraud scheme ever prosecuted in the history of the Southern District of Georgia. As this case evidences, the Southern District of Georgia is not targeting fraudsters solely located within the Southern District borders or even those solely within Georgia. A significant number of the defendants are from out of state—California DME operatorsFlorida DME ownersFlorida patient brokersand more. Just because a telehealth provider is located outside of the Southern District, does not mean they are outside the grasp of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt recently acknowledged the high amount of health care fraud prosecutions nationwide and warned that they will “grow significantly before year’s end.” Whether this is due to COVID-19 related fraud, DME, or cancer genomic tests, one thing is certain—telehealth will be at the forefront of many of those charges. Unsurprisingly, the Southern District of Georgia has already begun to lead this newest round of charges as today’s DOJ announcement evidences. One of the newly announced defendants, a nurse practitioner, was indicted a few weeks ago for conspiracy to commit health care fraud and other offenses due to her alleged role in a multi-million dollar DME fraud scheme, all orchestrated over telemedicine platforms.  

This newest takedown is just one of many to come. There will be no shortage of telemedicine related health care fraud enforcement actions this fall, particularly in Georgia. All health care providers, practitioners, and entities engaging or assisting with telemedicine services should consult with counsel to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Similarly, those same telemedicine entities or individuals who suspect or learn of an investigation should hire counsel immediately. Polsinelli’s Government Investigation’s group is uniquely poised to assist clients in these matters due to its significant experience with health care fraud matters and its deep ties to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia—shareholder Brian Rafferty was the former Criminal Chief in the Southern District of Georgia, and practice group chair Brian McEvoy was also a former Assistant United States Attorney and Health Care Fraud Coordinator in the District.

© Polsinelli PC, Polsinelli LLP in CaliforniaNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 274
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About this Author

Brian F. McEvoy Litigation Attorney Polsinelli Atlanta, GA
Office Managing Partner | Practice Chair

Brian McEvoy is an accomplished litigator with a well-earned reputation for working tirelessly to achieve the best outcomes for clients and for thinking creatively and strategically to resolve difficult problems with efficiency and professionalism. Brian is a former federal prosecutor with a practice focus on white collar criminal defense and a special emphasis in health care fraud matters. During his service as a federal prosecutor, he received special commendation from the Department of Health and Human Services by receiving the Inspector General's Integrity Award for...

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Shareholder

As a shareholder in the Government Investigations practice, Brian Rafferty leverages a distinguished background serving as Chief of the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia. In his more than ten years of experience as a federal prosecutor, Brian oversaw and managed some of the most high-profile and complex investigations in the Southern District of Georgia. Before his work as a federal prosecutor, Brian was a partner at white collar criminal litigation boutique in New York, where he represented individuals in government investigations.  Brian draws upon his deep understanding of the inner workings of enforcement authorities to represent clients facing regulatory and criminal enforcement actions. Leveraging his extensive experience and sound judgment, Brian constructs comprehensive strategies to defend entities and individuals facing government investigations and enforcement proceedings.

Brian focuses his practice on defending clients in a multitude of white collar defense, internal investigations and complex federal litigation matters. He provides prospective guidance to mitigate and ensure compliance with applicable state and federal laws and regulations. His work spans an array of industries with a particular focus on health care fraud, government contracting, and financial industries.

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Grace Zoller Polsinelli Atlanta Government Investigations False Claims Act Defense Internal Investigations
Associate

Grace Zoller assists clients in all aspects of white collar criminal defense and internal corporate investigations, from discovery through sentencing, including motion practice and trial preparation. Grace helps clients respond to all types of government investigations based on alleged violations of various civil, criminal, and administrative laws, including the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Statute. She mainly focuses her practice in healthcare fraud defense, but has represented clients from multiple industries during various federal economic criminal matters.

Prior to...

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