Miami-Area Physician Assistant Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison in $200 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme
WASHINGTON—A Miami licensed physician assistant was sentenced today to serve 15 years in prison for participating in a Medicare fraud scheme involving approximately $200 million in fraudulent billings by American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC), a mental health company that was headquartered in Miami.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Florida region made the announcement.
Robert Bergman, 65, of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez in the Southern District of Florida. In addition to the prison sentence, Bergman was ordered to pay more than $85.3 million in restitution, both jointly and severally with his co-conspirators.
After a six-day trial, on July 18, 2014, a federal jury in the Southern District of Florida found Bergman guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to make false statements relating to health care matters.
Evidence at trial demonstrated that Bergman and his co-conspirators submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare through ATC, which operated purported partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) in seven different locations throughout South Florida and Orlando. A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness.
Evidence at trial also demonstrated that Bergman and other medical professionals at ATC fabricated and signed fraudulent medical documentation and patient files in order to justify ATC’s fraudulent billings to Medicare. Included in these false submissions to Medicare were claims for patients who were ineligible for PHP treatment because they were in neuro-vegetative states, in the late stages of diseases causing permanent cognitive memory loss, or had substance abuse issues and were living in halfway houses. Many of these patients were forced by assisted living facility owners and halfway house owners to attend ATC, and they did not receive treatment for their actual medical conditions.
ATC, an associated management company, and more than 20 individuals, including ATC’s owners, have all previously pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial. Bergman has been in federal custody since his conviction.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG 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 Southern District of Florida. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Robert A. Zink and Trial Attorneys Nicholas E. Surmacz and Kelly Graves of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 1,900 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 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 Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.