February 3, 2011

OIG Launches First Time Ever Most Wanted Health Care Fugitives List

By

cbuck120ds

 

WASHINGTON, DC 02/03/11---Forget about seeing "Most Wanted" posters in your local post office. That's too yesterday.

 

Today for the first time ever, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health & Human Services is using the Internet to launch its "Most Wanted Fugitives List"-a list of individuals being sought by authorities on charges of healthcare fraud and abuse.

 

"With our Most Wanted Fugitives List, OIG is asking the public's help in tracking down fugitives. The public has a stake in the fight against fraud, waste, and abuse," said Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson in a news release posted on the OIG website.

 

The Most Wanted Fugitives List can be found at http://oig.hhs.gov/fugitives and includes photos and profiles of each featured fugitive. The site also includes an online fugitive tip form and the OIG hotline number (1-888-476-4453) to report fugitive-related information in either English or Spanish, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

 

The OIG says the web page will also indicate when a fugitive's status changes, including when he or she is captured.

 

"Individuals who steal from federal healthcare programs and then flee from the consequences of their crimes must be held accountable. We hope our new web page will encourage the public to help us apprehend these fugitives," said Gerald T. Roy, OIG Deputy Inspector General for Investigations, in the OIG news release.

 

The 10 individuals on the Most Wanted Health Care Fugitives List have allegedly cost taxpayers more than $124 million in fraud, reports the OIG. In all, OIG said it is seeking more than 170 fugitives on charges related to healthcare fraud and abuse.

 

The OIG's news release today carried the names of several of its Most Wanted Fugitives:

 

Carlos, Luis, and Jose Benitez, working through their Miami-area HIV infusion clinics, are accused of submitting fraudulent claims to Medicare totaling about $110 million. OIG alleges that the services for which the brothers billed were medically unnecessary or never administered.

 

Leonard Nwafor and his co-conspirators billed Medicare for $1.1 million and collected $525,000 in fraudulent claims for such durable medical equipment (DME) as motorized wheelchairs, scooters, and hospital beds for beneficiaries. This investigation was led by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, including OIG investigators, which was created to identify and prosecute fraudulent DME companies and laboratories in the Greater Los Angeles area.

 

Susan Bendigo is accused of billing Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, for $17.1 million, $10 million of which she actually collected. Working as director of nursing for a company providing nurses for home health agencies, Bendigo is said to have sent unlicensed nurses to treat Medi-Cal patients, though she knew Medi-Cal required licensed nurses to perform this work.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week released a new report showing that the government’s healthcare fraud prevention and enforcement efforts recovered more than $4 billion in taxpayer dollars in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, the highest annual amount ever recovered from fraud and abuse.


The more than $4 billion, stolen from federal healthcare programs, was recovered and returned to the Medicare Health Insurance Trust Fund, the Treasury, and others in FY 2010, according to HHS.  


Chuck Buck

Chuck Buck is the publisher of RACmonitor and is the program host and executive producer of Monitor Monday.

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