Saturday, October 31, 2020

New York clinics manager convicted in medical kickback and laundering scheme

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A Brooklyn man was sentenced to 156 months in prison today for his role in a vast multimillion-dollar health care kickback and money laundering conspiracy, the Department of Justice announced today.

Aleksandr Pikus, 45, of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York.  Judge Donnelly also ordered Pikus to pay $39.4 million in restitution and to forfeit $2,614,233.  On Nov. 15, 2019, after a two-week trial, Pikus was convicted by a jury of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, two counts of money laundering, one count of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States by obstructing the IRS.

“For nearly a decade, Aleksandr Pikus stole millions of dollars from the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs in a major healthcare kickback, money laundering and tax fraud scheme,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “This significant sentence holds Pikus accountable for his leadership role in this scheme and reflects the Department’s commitment to protecting our valuable federal healthcare programs and their beneficiaries from this kind of fraud.”

“The defendant’s key role in an elaborate scheme to steal and conceal tens of millions of dollars from the Medicare and Medicaid programs, was staggering in scope and deserving of the significant punishment he received today,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney DuCharme.  “This office takes very seriously its obligation to protect government funds that provide vital medical coverage counted upon by individuals and families who qualify because of their low income, disability or advanced years.”

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“Pikus was the kingpin running a massive money laundering and kickback health care fraud syndicate,” said Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  “Now, like others who plot to steal from government health programs, he is paying a heavy price for his crimes.  Along with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to root out individuals who steal vital taxpayer-provided health funds.”

“The defendant’s greed and desire for money drove him to perpetrate crimes against our healthcare system and prey upon the vulnerable in our society.,” stated IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Larsen. “Justice has been served and IRS-CI will continue to work alongside our counterparts to uncover these schemes to hold these criminals accountable for their actions.”

According to evidence presented at trial, Pikus and his co-conspirators perpetrated a scheme through a series of medical clinics in Brooklyn and Queens over the course of nearly a decade, which clinics employed doctors, physical and occupational therapists, and other medical professionals who were enrolled in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  In return for illegal kickbacks, Pikus referred beneficiaries to these health care providers, who submitted claims to the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Pikus and his co-conspirators then laundered a substantial portion of the proceeds of these claims through companies he controlled, including by cashing checks at several New York City check-cashing businesses.  Pikus then failed to report that cash income to the IRS.  Instead, Pikus used the cash to enrich himself and others and to pay kickbacks to patient recruiters, who, in turn, paid beneficiaries to receive treatment at the medical clinics.  The evidence further established that Pikus and his co-conspirators used sham shell companies and fake invoices to conceal their illegal activities.

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More than 25 other individuals have pleaded guilty to or been convicted of participating in the scheme, including physicians, physical and occupational therapists, ambulette drivers, and the owners of several of the shell companies used to launder the stolen money.

This case was investigated by the HHS-OIG and IRS-CI, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.  Assistant Chief A. Brendan Stewart and Trial Attorneys Sarah Wilson Rocha and Andrew Estes of the Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.

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