MIAMI (Reuters) - Authorities said on Wednesday they had charged 91 people, including doctors and nurses, for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud involving approximately $295 million in false billing.
Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry announced the charges in Washington, saying they resulted from coordinated operations in eight U.S. cities carried out by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.
"From Brooklyn to Miami to Los Angeles, the defendants allegedly treated the Medicare program like a personal piggy bank," the head of the Justice Department's criminal division, Lanny Breuer, told reporters in Washington.
The anti-fraud sweep over the last two weeks involved some 400 law enforcement agents from the FBI, HHS-Office of the Inspector General, multiple Medicaid Fraud Control Units, and other state and local law enforcement agencies.
Officials said the operations took place in Miami, Houston, Baton Rouge, Los Angeles, Detroit, Dallas, New York and Chicago.
Around half of the defendants were charged in Miami, the southeastern city widely viewed by law enforcement experts as the healthcare fraud capital of the United States.
The Miami defendants alone were accused of participation in fraud schemes involving a total of nearly $160 million in false billings for home and mental health services, occupational and physical therapy, HIV infusion, and other services.
"South Florida remains ground zero for healthcare fraud," John V. Gillies, FBI Special Agent in Charge, told reporters in Miami.
According to court documents, the defendants allegedly participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided.
(Reporting by Tom Brown in Miami and Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Jackie Frank)