- The owner and CEO of a telemedicine company pleaded guilty Friday to taking part in one of the largest schemes to defraud Medicare ever investigated by the FBI and the HHS Office of the Inspector General and prosecuted by the Department of Justice.
- Lester Stockett of Medellin, Colombia, owned Video Doctor USA (Video Doctor), Telemed Health Group LLC (AffordADoc), collectively known as the Video Doctor Network, and was CEO of AffordADoc.
- Stockett admitted to soliciting and receiving illegal kickbacks and bribes from patient recruiters, pharmacies, brace suppliers and others in return for arranging for doctors to order medically unnecessary orthotic braces for Medicare beneficiaries.
Created in 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has units operating in 23 districts, and has charged nearly 4,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $14 billion.
According to the most recent statistics, from January, the strike force has brought 2,117 criminal actions, secured 2,754 indictments and recovered $3.3 billion in connection with its investigations.
Stockett is just one of 24 defendants who were investigated by the FBI and the inspector general as part of a massive money laundering and Medicare fraud scheme. The DOJ brought charges against Stockett and other defendants in April.
The CEO's sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 16 before Judge Madeline Cox Arleo of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
The scheme was international in scope and involved contacting thousands of elderly and disabled patients through call centers in the Philippines and Latin America. A substantial portion of the orders for medically unnecessary durable medical equipment were placed by healthcare providers after only a brief phone call with the beneficiary. The doctors had no pre-existing doctor-patient relationship prior to the call.
In his guilty plea, Stockett admitted he and other executives and employees of the Video Doctor Network paid illegal kickbacks and bribes to healthcare providers to induce them to order medically unnecessary braces for Medicare beneficiaries.
Stockett and others transferred the brace orders to co-conspirator brace suppliers for a total of more than $424 million in false and fraudulent claims submissions to Medicare by brace suppliers. This resulted in Medicare paying the brace suppliers more than $200 million for these claims.
"Medical equipment should only be ordered when medically necessarily, not when criminals wish to line their own pockets," Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur of the IRS Criminal Investigation Newark Field Office said in a government press release.