It’s been a busy month so far for home health care and hospice fraud.
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that two Detroit-area home health agency owners were sentenced to a combined 16 years of prison for their roles in a multimillion dollar scheme to defraud Medicare by billing for home health services that were never provided.
Hafiz Tahir, 49, and Tasneem Tahir, 44, both of Brownstown, Michigan, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani of the Eastern District of Michigan to 10 and six years in prison, respectively. Judge Battani also ordered the defendants to pay restitution in the amount of $9,674,575 and $4,447,667, respectively, jointly and severally with their co-conspirators.
More than $8 million combined in money judgments were also levied against the two.
In addition to the restitution and money judgements, the Tahirs were also ordered to forfeit to the U.S. government their interest in $226,000 located in a Lebanese bank, two pieces of real property and cash in lieu of two vehicles.
The defendants each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks.
As part of their guilty pleas, Hafiz and Tasneem Tahir admitted that they paid illegal kickbacks in exchange for the referral of Medicare beneficiaries to home health agencies that they owned. Additionally, between 2009 and 2017, they submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for home health services that were never provided, the pair admitted.
The Justice Department did not name the home health agencies where the fraud took place.
Three others were charged in the case as well. While two of the individuals are awaiting further sentencing, one remains “a fugitive,” according to the Justice Department.
The FBI and U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigated the case. The financial investigation was conducted in coordination with the Forfeiture and Financial Litigation Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Since its inception in March 2007, the government’s Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in 12 cities across the country, has charged nearly 4,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $14 billion.
The home health care case comes just a few weeks after a former hospice owner pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud in a Greenville, Mississippi court.
The hospice owner submitted nearly $11 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare and more than $2 million to Medicaid while running Cleveland, Mississippi-based Haven Hospice, North Haven Hospice, Lion Hospice and North Lion Hospice.
An OIG special agent in charge described the hospice fraud case “as one of the largest and most egregious hospice schemes” he had ever seen in Mississippi.
Written by Robert Holly