Conspirators Convicted for $50 Million Home Health Fraud

A jury in New Orleans convicted four employees of medical service clinics last week for their roles in a $50 million Medicare fraud scheme.

The jury convicted two doctors, a nurse and an office manager for their roles in the scheme.

Barbara Smith, M.D., 66, of Metairie, Louisiana; Roy Berkowitz, M.D., 69, of Slidell, Louisiana; Beverly Breaux, 67, of New Orleans; and Joe Ann Murthil, 57, of New Orleans, were convicted on all counts after a five-day jury trial before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Sarah S. Vance of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

The defendants and others carried out a home health care fraud scheme in and around New Orleans through multiple companies over the course of more than 10 years, according to evidence produced at trail.

“Smith and Berkowitz falsely claimed that thousands of Medicare recipients were homebound and required nursing or therapy services to be provided in their homes,” says the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in a statement.

Breaux, a registered nurse falsely certified that these patients were homebound, and falsely claimed to have treated patients that she had not seen, the DOJ says.

In addition, Murthil, an office manager and biller at one home health company, assisted with the payment of illegal kickbacks to patient recruiters, according to the DOJ. She also submitted false claims to Medicare stating that patients were homebound when some of these patients had jobs, had not received services or did not want services.  

“From 2007 through 2014, the companies in this scheme submitted more than $56 million in claims to Medicare, the vast majority of which were fraudulent,” the DOJ says, adding that Medicare paid approximately $50.7 million on these claims.

Sentencing for the defendants is scheduled for Aug. 26, 2015.  

In total, 13 defendants have been charged for their roles in this scheme. Nine other defendants previously pleaded guilty.

Written by Cassandra Dowell