Former Hershey Medical Center Research Technologist Charged with Health Care Fraud
HARRISBURG—The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that a former Hershey Medical Center Research Technologist has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Harrisburg on health care fraud and false statements charges in connection with performing flawed genetic diagnostic tests for 124 cancer patients.
According to United States Attorney Peter Smith, Floyd Benko, age 60, a former research technologist at the Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, PA, is charged with one count of health care fraud and two counts of false statements in health care matters.
The Indictment was sealed pending Benko being taken into custody. He surrendered today, the Indictment was unsealed and Benko had his initial appearance in court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab. Benko was released on his own recognizance. Trial has been tentatively scheduled for September 14, 2015 before U.S. District Court Judge Yvette Kane.
According to the Indictment, Benko, a resident of Palmyra, PA, allegedly performed gene mutation tests for 124 advanced stage cancer patients at the Medical Center in 2013 and 2014. These tests help physicians diagnose a patient’s particular type of cancer so that specifically tailored treatments can be administered to the patient.
Benko allegedly did not perform the tests, or assays, in the manner called for by Hershey’s standard operating procedures. Subsequent retesting of the patients revealed that 60 of the 124 patients had results that varied from results obtained by an outside laboratory. The Medical Center considers those results as “discordant.”
Benko is charged in the two false statement counts with lying to administrators of the Hershey Medical Center about how he conducted the assays in two written statements he provided the hospital in April and October of 2014. Benko also allegedly failed to disclose and concealed the fact that he did not follow standard Hershey operating procedures by not preserving the patients’ leftover tissue and DNA samples.
According to the Indictment, the Hershey Medical Center incurred losses totaling $102, 406 as a result of Benko’s fraud, $65,000 for outside laboratory testing and $37,406 for assay refunds.
Hershey Medical Center reported the incident to law enforcement agencies and is cooperating with the investigation. According to the Medical Center, the patients who had a discordant test result in the relevant time period have been notified by the Center. Persons seeking further information concerning the flawed tests should contact Hershey Medical Center’s Chief Medical Officer at 717-531-4595. The Medical Center provided information regarding this case on its website on September 23, 2014 (see, http://pennstatehersheynewsroom.org/press-resources/statements/penn-state-hershey-provides-information-about-molecular-lab-inconsistencies).
Benko resigned from his position at the Medical Center in April 2014.
The case is being investigated by the Harrisburg Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kim Douglas Daniel and Anthony Scicchitano.
Indictments and Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
The maximum penalty for Health Care Fraud is 10 years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a $250,000 fine. The maximum term of imprisonment for False Statements in Health Care Matters is five years’ imprisonment. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant’s educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.