A couple of blogs ago, we highlighted the growing importance of telemedicine. Also known as “telehealth”, telemedicine is the practice of using technology such as smartphones and computers to provide remote health care. It’s a practice that many doctors are currently using to overcome the issues presented by the coronavirus pandemic. Sensibly, practicing social distancing is still a requirement in the medical field.
Telemedicine seems to be at the center of a growing number of health care fraud cases.
In that same blog, we revealed that a Georgia woman, Charlene Frame was the 23rd defendant charged in one of Georgia’s largest fraud operations ever. 48 year-old, Patrick Wolfe of Belleair, Florida, has become the 25th. As reported by the Southern District of Georgia branch of the United States Department of Justice, Wolfe has been charged for his alleged participation in a Medicare kickback and telemedicine fraud scheme.
According to the DoJ, Wolfe is the operator of Wilmington Island Medical Inc. It does business as WI Medical Inc. in Georgia. He is accused of conspiring to pay kickbacks for “leads”. These leads were actually signed orders from physicians and nurse practitioners. He billed the orders to Medicare Part B and Medicare Part C through WI Medical Inc. Allegedly, the financial total for the orders facilitated through this scheme is in the millions.
Wolfe is one of many on a long list of people charged in this conspiracy.
“Previous charges in this string of cases include eight physicians, two nurse practitioners, three operators of different telemedicine companies, two brokers of patient data, and several owners of durable medical equipment companies,” informs the DoJ report.
The charges against Wolfe come as part of the combined “Operation Brace Yourself” and “Operation Double Helix” initiative. Together, the operations are part of the largest fraud operation prosecuted in the history of the Southern District of Georgia.
Thus far, there is a combined total of over $475 million in fraud charged in this region. As well, there are further allegations that involve billions of dollars in fraudulent claims. They include claims for genetic testing, orthotic braces and pain creams among others.
This investigation is ongoing.
“As telemedicine becomes an increasing part of our healthcare system, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, vigilance in ensuring that fraud and kickbacks do not usurp the legitimate practice of medicine by electronic means is more important than ever,” says the DoJ, “If you are aware of any fraud or kickbacks relating to telemedicine, including COVID-19 fraud, please call the FBI hotline at 1-800-CALL-FBI.”
Chris Hacker is the Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. He had this to say about Wolfe’s charges: “This is another in a long line of charges in a continuous investigation into fraud that hurts every taxpayer and steals money earmarked for those who need it to meet their healthcare issues. The FBI and our fellow federal partners will not rest until everyone involved in wrongdoing is brought to justice.”
Are you an attorney currently working on a health care fraud case?
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