Ambulance Company Manager Sentenced to Five Years for Role in Medicare Fraud Conspiracy
PHILADELPHIA—Mikhail Vasserman, 51, of Philadelphia, PA., was sentenced today to five years in prison for his role in a health care fraud scheme involving Penn Choice Ambulance Inc., operating from Huntingdon Valley, PA and Camp Hill, PA. Vasserman pleaded guilty on October 21, 2013 to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, false statements relating to health care matters, and paying kickbacks to patients, a total of 14 counts. Vasserman, who was the manager for Penn Choice’s Huntingdon Valley base, was indicted with the company’s owner Anna Mudrova, and operators Yury Gerasyuk, Irina Vasserman, Aleksandr Vasserman, Khusen Akhmedov, and Valeriy Davydchik, all of whom have pleaded guilty.
The scheme involved more than $3.6 million in fraudulent claims submitted to Medicare. The defendants conspired to defraud Medicare by recruiting patients who were able to walk and could travel safely by means other than ambulance and who therefore were not eligible for ambulance transportation under Medicare requirements. The defendants, and others acting on their behalf, falsified reports to make it appear that the patients needed to be transported by ambulance when the defendants knew that the patients could be transported safely by other means and that many of them walked to the ambulance for transport. The defendants themselves, or through others, paid illegal kickbacks to the patients as part of scheme. The defendants billed Medicare for these ambulance services as if those services were medically necessary and, as a result of the fraudulent billing, the Medicare program sustained losses of more than $1.5 million for this medically unnecessary method of transportation.
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sánchez ordered three years of supervised release; restitution in the amount of $1,703,450.74, joint and several with the co-defendants; a special assessment of $1,400; and forfeiture of any assets traceable to the offense. In addition to restitution to Medicare of $1,548,583.93, the Court ordered restitution of approximately $154,866.81 payable to Highmark Blue Cross, which provides supplemental insurance to Medicare beneficiaries.
In prior proceedings, defendant Khusen Akhmedov, an EMT, was sentenced to 27 months in prison; ambulance drivers, Valeriy Davydchik and Yury Gerasyuk, were each sentenced to 24 months in prison; and the corporation was ordered to pay restitution and to cease all operations. The three remaining defendants are awaiting sentencing.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney M. Beth Leahy.