Owner of Health Care Agency Sentenced to 18 Months Prison in Medicare Kickback Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 16, 2009|
Rebecca Sharp, the former owner of a health care agency, and one of eight defendants charged in a scheme to solicit and pay kickbacks in exchange for Medicare patients, was sentenced today to 18 months’ imprisonment on the charge of Conspiracy to Violate the Health Care Anti-Kickback Statute, United States Attorney Terrence Berg announced.
U.S. Attorney Berg was joined in the announcement by Andrew G. Arena, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Sharp, age 44, from Ypsilanti, was sentenced in United States District Court before Judge Avern Cohn. During the sentencing, Judge Cohn acknowledged the current national and Congressional debate over healthcare costs and reform and noted that health care fraud is one of the reasons that health care in this country is so expensive. Judge Cohn also commented that the victim in health care fraud cases is the American taxpayer.
Judge Cohn stated that the 18-month sentence was necessary to recognize the seriousness of the offense and to deter others from engaging in health care fraud schemes.
As part of her sentence, Sharp will serve three years of supervised release and will be required to pay $1,411,124.80 in restitution to the Medicare Trust Fund. Also, as part of her plea agreement, Sharp agreed to forfeit over $268,000 including funds seized from her business bank accounts and proceeds from the sale of one Corvette and two Lincoln Navigators.
United States Attorney Terrence Berg said, “Medicare is not intended to finance kickbacks to persons who refer seniors for treatment funded by medicare. Medicare is to assist older Americans to be able to afford the medical treatment and health care that they need. When Medicare funds are diverted to pay kickbacks, that conduct harms both legitimate Medicare recipients as well as the program itself.”
Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, Andrew Arena said, “Medicare is based on the honesty and integrity of the program participants. Those who cheat Medicare are cheating the American taxpayers who ultimately bear the financial loss. The FBI is committed to protecting our healthcare systems from fraud and abuse."
Information presented to the Court at the time of the plea showed that, between 2002 and 2005, Rebecca Sharp received over $1.1 million in kickbacks for referring Medicare beneficiaries to home health care agencies. Sharp obtained potential home health care patients by instructing her staff at Continuing Senior Care Co, Inc. and Marketing & Assessment to telephone senior citizens and offer medical services and chore workers. If senior citizens inquired how her staff obtained their names, Sharp’s employees told them the information came from Medicare. Once the Medicare information was acquired, a doctor, employed by Sharp, visited the senior citizen, measured vitals signs, and prescribed home health care. After obtaining patients with Medicare coverage, Sharp referred the individuals to home health care agencies in exchange for a fee. Sharp claimed she could refer 80 patient names and Medicare numbers per week to a home health agency and that she charged a $250 per-patient referral fee.
Berg commended the special agents of the FBI for their hard work in pursuing this case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Resnick Cohen and Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Ross.