Written by AARON CASTREJON
LOS ANGELES - Federal authorities announced Tuesday the arrest of 24 people indicted in a massive health care fraud scheme involving telemedicine and durable medical equipment marketing executives.
The FBI and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General investigated the scheme, which involved the payment of illegal kickbacks and bribes by durable medical equipment companies in exchange for the referral of Medicare beneficiaries by medical professionals working with fraudulent telemedicine companies for back, shoulder, wrist and knee braces that are medically unnecessary, according to the Department of Justice, which is prosecuting the case.
Glendora men Najib Jabbour, 47, and Darin Flashberg, 41, were both arrested Tuesday morning by FBI agents.
Jabbour and Flashberg own seven durable medical equipment companies and have been indicted for alleged participation in a $34 million scheme related to their payment of kickbacks and bribes in exchange for medically unnecessary orders, the Justice Department said.
Flashberg has an office in San Dimas: Flash Medical, which operates across a business complex driveway from Jabbour’s EZ Fit Medical Group, Inc.
More than 80 search warrants were served in 17 federal districts. Administrative action was taken against 130 durable medical equipment companies, which submitted more than $1.7 billion in insurance claims and received more than $900 million, the Department of Justice said.
“Some of the defendants allegedly controlled an international telemarketing network that lured over hundreds of thousands of elderly and/or disabled patients into a criminal scheme that crossed borders, involving call centers in the Philippines and throughout Latin America,” the Department of Justice said.
Doctors were allegedly paid to prescribe the medical equipment based on nothing more than a brief phone conversation with patients they never met, or without any patient interaction at all.
The money was then laundered through international shell corporations and was then used to purchase yachts, exotic automobiles and luxury real estate in the U.S. and abroad, the Department of Justice said.
An international call center was used to advertise to Medicare beneficiaries to garner patients who were “up-sold” to coerce them into accepting numerous “free or low-cost” durable medical equipment braces, despite a lack of necessity, the Justice Department said.
The international call center paid illegal kickbacks and bribes to telemedicine companies to obtain the orders. The equipment was then sold to the durable medical equipment companies and Medicare was fraudulently billed, the Department of Justice said.
Doctors or medical professionals who may have been involved with alleged fraudulent telemedicine and DME marketing schemes – including Video Doctor USA, AffordADoc, Web Doctors Plus, Integrated Support Plus and First Care MD – should call to report this conduct to the FBI hotline at 1-800-CALL-FBI.