DOJ accuses 2 in California of $ 144 million Covid test fraud

Signage will be seen at the U.S. Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, DC, on August 29, 2020.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday announced charges against two people in California in a scheme that allegedly brought in $ 144 million in fake and fraudulent health claims to federal programs for unnecessary Covid-19 tests.

The DOJ also filed criminal charges against 19 other defendants, including doctors, a nurse, medical executives and others, for an additional $ 8 million in false Covid-related billing for federal health programs and theft from federally funded pandemic assistance programs. Prosecutors also claim that some defendants sold fake vaccination cards and fake coronavirus cures.

The cases span nine federal court districts.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen trusted doctors orchestrate and commit serious crimes against their patients all for financial gain,” said Luis Quesada, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“These abuses of healthcare fraud erode the integrity and trust patients have in them in the healthcare industry, especially in a vulnerable and worrying time for many individuals,” Quesada said.

In the big case in California, the owners of a clinical laboratory, Imran Shams and Lourdes Navarro, both 63 years old from Glendale, were charged with a health fraud, setback and money laundering involving fraudulent billing of over $ 214 million for laboratory tests.

More than $ 125 million of those bills allegedly involved fraudulent claims for Covid and respiratory pathogen tests that were “filed without regard to medical necessity,” according to prosecutors.

“Shams and Navarro fraudulently concealed Shams’ role in the laboratory and his previous health-related convictions,” according to the DOJ. Shams has been banned from participating in the federal Medicare program for decades.

“The indictment also alleges that Shams and Navarro paid return commissions to marketers who received samples and test orders and laundered the proceeds of the scheme through shell companies controlled by Navarro, including by making expenses on real estate, luxury goods and personal goods and services,” he said. Ministry of Justice.

In the state of Washington, a 53-year-old resident of Parker, Colorado, Robert Van Camp, was accused of using blank Covid-19 vaccination cards to counterfeit and sell hundreds of fake vaccine cards, which he sold to buyers and distributors at 6 p.m. at least a dozen states, according to the DOJ.

“Van Camp allegedly told an undercover agent that he had sold cards to ‘people going to the Olympics in Tokyo, three Olympians and their coach in Tokyo, Amsterdam, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Honduras’,” the DOJ said in a news release . release.

Van Camp has reportedly also told this agent: “I have a company, a veterinary company that has 30 people who go to Canada every day, Canada back. Mexico is big. And like I said, I’m 12 or 13 states, so until I get caught and get in jail, f — that, then I take the money (laughs)! I do not care, “said the DOJ.

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Other defendants include a U.S. Postal Service employee, Lisa Hammell of Turnersville, New Jersey. Hammell is accused of making fake Covid vaccine cards and printing them while he was at work.

Hammell, 39, is accused of selling at least 400 fake vaccination cards to people who had not actually received Covid shots.

In separate cases in Maryland and Long Island, New York, medical clinic owners are accused of obtaining confidential information from patients seeking coronavirus tests at drive-thru sites and on short office visits, and then filing false claims with Medicare. Medicaid and other insurance companies for much longer office visits, which actually did not happen.

In the Long Island case, Dr. Perry Frankel, 64, of Roslyn, NY, charged with more than $ 1.3 million in health fraud in claims billed during the Covid pandemic.

Frankel’s lawyer Timothy Sini called him in an email statement a “respected cardiologist in the Long Island region who has saved lives by providing vital mobile medical screenings to law enforcement, school districts and many communities across Long Island and the five districts. “

“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Dr. Frankel went up and brought much-needed COVID-19 testing to the community. He has been recognized for his service by many, including the White House,” Sini said.

“The government, as part of a larger initiative, is targeting health care providers who allegedly exploited the pandemic to benefit themselves financially. Nothing could be further from the truth here,” the lawyer said. “Dr. Frankel provided a much-needed service during a public health crisis and an extremely challenging time. It is unfortunate that the government’s claims are trying to undermine the positive nature of Dr. Frankel’s work. We look forward to pursuing justice for Dr. Frankel and purge his name in the medical community. “

In the Maryland case, Ron Elfenbein, a 47-year-old from Arnold, was charged with health fraud related to more than $ 1.5 million in claims billed in connection with the COVID-19 test.

In Utah, a former employee of the preflight Covid testing service XpresCheck at the Salt Lake City International Airport terminal was charged with wire fraud for giving false negative test results to people traveling through that airport.

The worker, 28-year-old Linda Tufui Toli from Salt Lake City, “allegedly reported calls from travelers seeking XVesCheck COVID testing services before traveling to destinations such as Hawaii, Israel, and elsewhere that required travelers to provide negative COVID. test results before departure, “said the DOJ.

“Toli has reportedly canceled travelers’ COVID tests through XpresCheck, allowing travelers to purchase fake negative COVID tests directly from her, and accepted payment for the fake test results using electronic mobile payment services,” according to the DOJ.

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