On April 28, the Department of Justice announced that a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, California, along with his son, medical practices, and billing company, have agreed to pay $23.9 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act. $497,619 will go to the state of California for the share of the state’s money involved in the alleged fraud. The settlement stems from allegations of false claims made to Medicare and Medicaid.
“Our investigation revealed a long-running practice to illegally maximize profits, ultimately costing public health programs millions of dollars,” said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada for the Central District of California. “The Medicare and Medicaid programs are taxpayer-funded programs, and we are committed to wiping out abuses that line the pockets of unscrupulous providers.”
“When health care providers violate federal health care program requirements, they undermine the integrity of these programs and waste taxpayer dollars,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “This settlement demonstrates the department’s commitment to preventing providers from misappropriating public funds for their own private gain.”
The investigation and civil action taken by the Department of Justice initiated from disclosures from whistleblowers who filed under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act. Qui tam claims enable private citizens to file lawsuits on behalf of the government if they know of an individual or company defrauding the government. Qui tam whistleblowers are eligible to receive between 15 and 30% of the government’s recovery. The whistleblowers, TDP, a billing company, Dr. Jason Morris, a podiatrist, and Harold Bautista, a billing department employee, all worked for Dr. Aronowitz and his associated medical practices and businesses.
The government added that in its efforts to combat healthcare fraud, “one of the most powerful tools… is the False Claims Act.”