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August 31, 2015

Detroit-Area Physician Pleads Guilty to Role in $5.7 Million Fraud Scheme

WASHINGTON—A Detroit-area rea medical doctor who prescribed unnecessary controlled substances and billed for unperformed office visits and diagnostic testing pleaded guilty today for his role in a $5.7 million health care fraud scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office and Special Agent in Charge Jarod J. Koopman of Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.

Laran Lerner, 59, of Northville, Michigan, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts of the Eastern District of Michigan to one count of health care fraud and one count of structuring cash transactions to avoid bank reporting requirements, as charged in a two-count information filed on Aug. 21, 2015. Sentencing is set for Jan. 24, 2015.

According to admissions made as part of his plea agreement, Lerner lured patients into his clinic with prescriptions for unnecessary controlled substances. Lerner admitted that he billed and caused Medicare to be billed for a variety of unnecessary prescriptions, tests and office visits to make it appear as though he was providing legitimate medical services instead of medically unnecessary controlled substances. According to admissions made as part of his plea agreement, Medicare was billed $5,748,237.31, as a result of Lerner’s unnecessary prescriptions, office visits and diagnostic testing.

As part of the plea agreement, Lerner agreed to permanently surrender his Drug Enforcement Administration controlled substance registration and agreed not to re-apply in the future.

Lerner also pleaded guilty to structuring cash deposits he received as a result of his scheme to avoid triggering the requirement under federal law that domestic banks file a report – called a Currency Transaction Report – with the Secretary of Treasury for all transactions in currency over $10,000. Lerner admitted that he knew about this requirement and caused his cash deposits to be structured in $5,000 increments on consecutive days at various branch locations in the Detroit area to avoid detection. According to court documents, Lerner deposited $70,000 in cash in April 2013 alone by making deposits of $5,000 on fourteen different days.

The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and IRS-CI, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Michigan. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Elizabeth Young of the Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged over 2,300 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for over $7 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

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