REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE CIVILDIVISION TONY WEST AT THEAMERICAN THERAPEUTIC CORPORATION PRESS CONFERENCEMIAMI, FLORIDAOCTOBER 21, 2010
Thank you all for being here. My name is Tony West, and I’m the Assistant Attorney Generalfor the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. In that capacity, I oversee much of the federalgovernment’s civil litigation across the country, including the Justice Department’s efforts to recapturebillions of taxpayers’ dollars lost to fraud, including health care fraud.Today’s announcement signals the Department’s crackdown on an increasing area of fraud andabuse in Florida – the delivery of important mental health services provided under Medicare’s PartialHospitalization Program at Community Mental Health Centers. In addition to the arrests and criminalcharges that Assistant Attorney General Breuer announced, we are also announcing that we haveobtained a Temporary Restraining Order, or “TRO,” freezing the assets of four corporate entities:American Therapeutic Corporation, American Sleep Institute, D & V Development, and MedLink Professional Management Group. As well as four individuals: Lawrence Duran, Marianella Valera,Judith Negron, and Margarita Acevedo.Now, we have sought to freeze the assets of these individual and corporate defendants becausewe have alleged that they are involved in a scheme to seek Medicare reimbursements for mental healthservices that were never provided to people who needed them and for sleep studies that were neverconducted. And to the extent that these defendants profited from this alleged fraud, the TRO seeks tokeep them from transferring, hiding, or otherwise disposing of their assets.The alleged fraud here involves the Partial Hospitalization Program, a Medicare program thatprovides mental health patients with much-needed services in an outpatient setting. The defendants,we allege, did not offer the services they were required to provide – including care to the elderly andthe severely mentally ill – but instead, they billed Medicare – that is, billed the American taxpayers –for services that were not covered or that they failed to provide at all. To the extent that the defendantsdid offer services to this vulnerable population, those services were worthless, resulting in a failure of care. In fact, we allege that ATC routinely admitted people suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementiainto their Partial Hospitalization Program just to get Medicare reimbursements even though they knewthese services would not meet the needs of these patients. But the defendants’ unlawful conduct didnot end there. We allege that they engaged in an illegal kickback scheme whereby they paidindividuals to find potentially eligible Medicare beneficiaries and bring them to American Therapeuticor to ASI, the American Sleep Institute, regardless of whether the people who were referred neededhealth services or not.Often, these “patient recruiters” would find individuals who were in need of a place to stayovernight and offer them free temporary housing, cash, or other bribes in exchange for agreeing to poseas patients of ATC and ASI. The defendants would then seek reimbursement from Medicare and linetheir own pockets with the profits. Led by Larry Duran, the alleged mastermind of these schemes, webelieve that the defendants engaged in a concerted effort to cover up their crimes by altering medicalrecords and forging physician signatures to make it appear as if a physician authorized or requestedthese services.