TRENTON, New Jersey– A Florida man admitted his role in a durable medical equipment (DME) kickback scheme, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said.
Patrick Fitchner, 51, of Orlando, Florida, pleaded guilty on Tuesday, Aug. 22 before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp in Trenton federal court to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
“The defendant admitted that he and his conspirators submitted millions of dollars’ worth of claims to Medicare and other health benefits programs that they knew were procured through the payment of kickbacks and bribes," Sellinger said. “Their scheme caused Medicare to pay out $3.6 million in fraudulently obtained reimbursements. Protecting our health care system from schemers like this is a full-time job, and we will use all the tools at our disposal to do so.”
“Many scammers who commit health care fraud may believe the system is so complex that no one will miss a few thousand dollars here or a few million dollars there,” FBI Newark Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy said. “The problem with that premise is we are paying attention, and our job as the FBI is to protect the general public from criminals who think they can game the system. Fitchner and his conspirators are now paying for their crimes, and others looking to follow suit should take note.”
“Violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute that involve durable medical equipment can jeopardize the supply of equipment and federal health care benefits for others,” said Special Agent in Charge Naomi Gruchacz with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. “Individuals who participate in the federal health care system are required to obey the laws meant to preserve the integrity of program funds and the provision of appropriate, quality services to patients.”
According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:
Fitchner and his conspirators solicited and received kickbacks and bribes in exchange for providing DME companies with completed doctors’ orders for medically unnecessary DME, such as orthotic braces. Fitchner and his conspirators utilized the service of telemedicine companies to obtain these prescriptions for DME, and the DME orders were subsequently fraudulently billed to Medicare and other health care benefit programs.
Fitchner and his conspirators were paid approximately $2.1 million in kickbacks for these DME orders and caused losses to Medicare and other health care benefit programs of at least $3.6 million.
The charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross profit or loss caused by the offense, whichever is greatest. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 9, 2024.