An Indian-origin man hailing from Georgia has been handed a 27-year prison sentence today for his involvement in a fraudulent scheme targeting Medicare. This scheme involved submitting genetic and other laboratory tests, amassing over $463 million, that were not essential for patients. These tests were acquired through the exchange of kickbacks and bribes.
As detailed in official court records, Minal Patel, aged 44 and residing in Atlanta, was the proprietor of LabSolutions LLC (LabSolutions), a laboratory registered with Medicare, specialising in advanced genetic testing. Patel colluded with patient brokers, telemedicine firms, and call centres to target Medicare beneficiaries via telemarketing calls. These calls deceitfully claimed that Medicare covered costly cancer genetic tests.
Once beneficiaries agreed to undertake the tests, Patel facilitated kickbacks and bribes to patient brokers to obtain legitimate doctors’ orders, permitting the tests, from telemedicine companies. Patel used fabricated contracts, signed by patient brokers, to conceal these illicit transactions, falsely asserting that the brokers were rendering genuine advertising services for LabSolutions.
Patel was fully aware that these brokers were deceptively enticing Medicare beneficiaries and offering kickbacks and bribes to telemedicine companies for genetic testing prescriptions.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division commented, “In one of the largest genetic testing fraud cases ever tried to verdict, today’s sentence makes clear that the Department will seek justice for those who put profits above patient care, including owners and executives. The sentence also demonstrates the Criminal Division’s ongoing commitment to fighting telemedicine and genetic testing fraud that exploits patients and drains health care benefit programs”.
Patel was well aware that telemedicine doctors were engaged in robo-signing prescriptions for costly genetic testing, even though these doctors were not engaged in treating the beneficiaries. Often, these doctors didn’t even have direct conversations with the beneficiaries and failed to assess the medical necessity of the tests.
Between July 2016 and August 2019, LabSolutions submitted claims exceeding $463 million to Medicare, involving thousands of genetically unnecessary tests, for which Medicare disbursed over $187 million. Throughout this period, Patel personally gained over $21 million from Medicare due to his involvement in this fraudulent activity.
“Deception, kickbacks, and bribes have no place in the provision of legitimate genetic testing and telemedicine services to patients who need them,” stated Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey B. Veltri from the FBI Miami Field Office.
Veltri continued, “Patel bilked hundreds of millions of dollars from Medicare through a complex testing fraud scheme. He is now paying the price for this crime. The FBI commends the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) for their close partnership and diligence working this joint investigation. Our message to those who commit Medicare fraud and steal from U.S. taxpayers is clear: you will be caught, and you will be held accountable.”
Acting Special Agent in Charge Julie Rivera of the HHS-OIG expressed, “This outcome sends a strong message that HHS-OIG will not tolerate those who exploit Medicare patients and who pay kickbacks to providers to prescribe medically unnecessary genetic tests, all for illegitimate financial gain. Our commitment to safeguarding the integrity of the Medicare program remains unwavering.”
The case was thoroughly examined by both the FBI and HHS-OIG. Trial Attorneys Jamie de Boer, Emily Gurskis, Reginald Cuyler Jr., Katherine Rookard, and Patrick Queenan from the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section managed the prosecution. Assistant U.S. Attorney Marx Calderon, representing the Southern District of Florida, is handling the asset forfeiture procedures. An asset forfeiture hearing is scheduled for August 25.
The case was initiated as part of Operation Double Helix, an enforcement effort spearheaded by the Health Care Fraud Strike Force, operating under the oversight of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. This operation concentrated on exposing fraudulent genetic cancer testing practices, leading to charges against numerous defendants connected with telemedicine entities and genetic cancer testing laboratories, all accused of participating in one of the most extensive health care fraud schemes ever prosecuted.