Southern California Doctor Pleads Guilty to Charges of Tax and Medicare Fraud
A doctor who performed unnecessary procedures and surgeries on homeless patients pleaded guilty on Thursday, December 12th, to charges of Medicare fraud and submitting a false tax return.
Reportedly, Dr. Ovid Mercene, 61, took in homeless patients and sequestered them away in a separate wing of the hospital, giving them unnecessary treatment and referring them to skilled nursing facilities in order to falsely bill Medicare. Later, he did not report this income on his tax return.
Ultimately, Dr. Mercene billed Medicare $1.8 million for medically unnecessary services. Of the fraudulent Medicare charges, Mercene received $850,000, and was paid another $700,000 by skilled nursing facilities for the false patient referrals.
“Mercene admitted the “patients” after watching them being transported by van from Skid Row to the hospital where they were often kept on a special floor away from the hospital’s regular patients,” said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
During their hospital stay, Mercene performed several unnecessary tests and procedures on the patients, although he allowed them to take smoke breaks despite several of the homeless patients suffering from respiratory diseases. He also referred them to skilled nursing facilities for treatments they did not need. Because he falsely billed Medicare and Medi-Cal – California’s version of Medicaid – the payments from the nursing facilities could constitute illegal kickbacks. He did not report any of the income on his tax returns.
Mercene’s arrest and Medicare fraud charges are the first in a series of investigations conducted jointly by California officials, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Inspector General, the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation and the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse.
The Strom Law Firm Protects Medicare Fraud Whistleblowers in South Carolina
It is a provision of the Federal Civil False Claims Act that allows a private citizen to file a suit, in the name of the U.S. Government, charging fraud by government contractors and other entities that receive or use government funds. Bolstered by amendments passed by Congress in 1986, the law has armed private citizens who have independent and direct knowledge of fraud, whether financial institution fraud or Medicare fraud, with a weapon to prosecute government contractors and others who are defrauding the Government.
Common whistle blower actions include:
- Medicare fraud,
- defense contractor fraud, and
- other kinds of fraud against state or federal government
Qui tam lawsuits have been, and continue to be, a very effective and successful tool in combating government procurement and program fraud. If you have first-hand knowledge of government fraud occurring at your place of employment or your doctor’s office, including Medicare fraud, the attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help protect your rights. In order to help the government provide the best possible services, Medicaid and Medicare fraud must be reported as soon as possible. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm understand the complexity of qui tam and whistleblower suits, and we offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case. Contact us today. 803.252.4800