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February 6, 2015

Unlicensed Detroit Doctor Convicted in $4.69 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

WASHINGTON—A federal jury in Detroit today convicted an unlicensed physician for his participation in a nearly $4.7 million Medicare fraud scheme, announced 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 and 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.

Wilfred Griffith, 64, of Detroit, a graduate of a foreign medical school with no medical license, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to solicit and receive health care kickbacks. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 8, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Sean F. Cox of the Eastern District of Michigan.

According to evidence presented at trial, Griffith worked as an unlicensed physician at Phoenix Visiting Physicians in 2010 and 2011. At that clinic, Griffith treated Medicare beneficiaries and used prescription pads pre-signed by Dr. Dwight Smith to prescribe medicine.

The evidence demonstrated that Griffith also referred Medicare beneficiaries to a Detroit-area home health company called Cherish Home Health Services Inc. (Cherish) in exchange for kickbacks. In ordering the home health services, Griffith used the names and signatures of Dr. Smith and two other Detroit-area physicians to certify that the beneficiaries were homebound and needed home health services, when they did not.

Evidence showed that based on the fraudulent referrals from Griffith and others, Cherish submitted false claims to Medicare for home health services that were never provided and were not medically necessary. Medicare beneficiaries pre-signed supporting medical paperwork that was then completed and signed by others at Cherish to falsely show that care was provided.

Between November 2009 and December 2013, Medicare paid Cherish nearly $4.7 million, which included more than $680,000 for home health services purportedly rendered to beneficiaries referred by Griffith using the names of Dr. Smith and the two other physicians.

Two other individuals have pleaded guilty for their roles in this scheme. Zia Hassan, 48, the owner of Cherish, pleaded guilty on Jan. 16, 2015, and Nathan Miller, 53, a patient recruiter who referred beneficiaries to Hassan in exchange for cash kickbacks, pleaded guilty on Aug. 4, 2014. On May 7, 2012, Dr. Smith also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and on June 12, 2014, U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen of the Eastern District of Michigan sentenced Dr. Smith to three years in prison.

The case was investigated by HHS-OIG and the FBI and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Katharine A. Wagner and Special Trial Attorney Katie R. Fink of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Hurford of the Eastern District of Michigan.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,100 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6.5 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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