Scams – Helping the Rich Get Richer

Stories like the one about Billionaire brothers Samuel and Charles Wyly are becoming more common place, and to me that is a sad reflection of the world we live in.  If you have not read the story on these two,  let me summarize . . . they are already billionaire business men from being a part of large and recognizable companies such as Bonanza Steakhouse, Michaels craft stores and Green Mountain Energy . . . you would think that they have enough money, right?  I guess not.  They are being charged with orchestrating a fraud scheme that brought in $550 million!

The cloak of secrecy has been lifted from the complex web of foreign structures used by the Wylys to evade the securities laws,” said Lorin L. Reisner, Deputy Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “They used these structures to conceal hundreds of millions of dollars of gains in violation of the disclosure requirements for corporate insiders.

Another note, Samuel Wyly has a book called 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire in which he talks about his rise from a country boy to a billionaire.  I wonder what chapter he covers how to run a million dollar fraud scheme?

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Elizabeth Warren: A must appointment to offset what passes for “truth” in banking

Harvard Law professor and bailout watchdog Elizabeth Warren has shown her willingness to crack down on Wall Street’s predatory practices and advocate on behalf of consumers.
Sign the petition at http://www.citizen.org/warren-for-cfpb to show your support for consumer champion Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Also, read the article by my good friend Denise Richardson
Elizabeth Warren: A must appointment to offset what passes for “truth” in banking

Fraud Fighter

I attended a Fraud Fighters Forum in Minnesota a few months ago, and I am pleased to announce that the event will be broadcast on television.

Fraud Fighters Program to Air on Minnesota Channel
Tune in for an informational program about how to prevent, spot and report fraud, brought to you by AARP and the Better Business Bureau.  Produced by Twin Cities Public Television, the hour-long program provides useful information from law enforcement agencies and experts and answers consumers’ questions in a panel discussion moderated by Minnesota Public Radio’s Chris Farrell.
The broadcast will occur on the statewide MN Channel.  It is seen statewide via all six Minnesota public television stations, over the air free for viewers, as well as on cable services.
Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 8:00 PM
Monday, August 23, 2010 at 2:00 AM
Monday, August 23, 2010 at 8:00 AM
Monday, August 23, 2010 at 2:00 PM
In the Minneapolis/St. Paul Area, the show will air on Twin Cities Public Television www.tpt.org.  Look for “tptMN
Broadcast:   Channel 2-2
Cable:   Comcast channel 202 in Minneapolis and channel 243 in St. Paul; Mediacom channel 102; Charter channel 396
TPT Life
This program will also be carried on the new tptLIFE channel which is primarily devoted to how-to and lifestyle programs and also features repeats of popular prime-time programs from tpt2.
The program will air on Sunday, August 29, 2010 at 12:00 PM.

The numbers

http://www.ic3.gov/media/2010/100312.aspx

Year      Dollar Loss
2009      $559.7 million
2008      $265 million
2007      $239.09 million
2006      $198.44 million
2005      $183.12 million

With numbers like this, we have to admit that scams and fraud are a growing problem, and that we need to address them NOW so that these numbers do not continue to grow at the rate that they are. 

http://www.change.org/petitions/view/create_scam_education_and_awareness_programs

Think Fraud!

Fraud is something that happens to way too many Americans and we all need to be on the look out for it. Think about Fraud before it happens to you.

http://scamvictimsunited.blogspot.com/2010/07/think-fraud.html

Medicare Fraud

It is always good to hear about a case where the “bad guys” are busted!

http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel10/medicarefraud_071610.htm

WASHINGTON—Ninety-four people have been charged for their alleged participation in schemes to collectively submit more than $251 million in false claims to the Medicare program in the continuing operation of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force in Miami; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Brooklyn, New York; Detroit; and Houston, announced Attorney General Eric Holder, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General of HHS. The operation announced today is the largest federal health care fraud takedown since Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations began in 2007.

The joint DOJ-HHS Medicare Fraud Strike Force is a multi-agency team of federal, state, and local investigators designed to combat Medicare fraud through the use of Medicare data analysis techniques and an increased focus on community policing. More than 360 law enforcement agents from the FBI, HHS-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), multiple Medicaid Fraud Control Units, and other state and local law enforcement agencies participated in today’s operation.

“Our continued Strike Force operations reflect the unprecedented commitment that inspired the creation of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team in May 2009,” said Attorney General Holder. “With today’s arrests, we’re putting would-be criminals on notice: Health care fraud is no longer a safe bet. The federal government is working aggressively—and collaboratively—to pursue health care criminals around the country and to bring these offenders to justice.”

“Today’s arrests send a strong message that attempts to defraud Medicare will not be tolerated,” said Secretary Sebelius. “With the help of new tools in the Affordable Care Act, including stiffer penalties and better information sharing, we will continue to work with our federal, state, and local partners to stamp out Medicare fraud and protect beneficiaries and the American taxpayer.”

Charges were unsealed today against 94 individuals who are accused of various Medicare fraud-related offenses, including conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program, criminal false claims, violations of the anti-kickback statutes and money laundering. The charges are based on a variety of fraud schemes, including physical therapy and occupational therapy schemes, home health care schemes, HIV infusion fraud schemes, and durable medical equipment (DME) schemes. Thirty-six defendants charged in these schemes have been arrested in Miami, New York, Baton Rouge, and Detroit, and additional arrests are expected throughout the day.

According to the court documents, the defendants charged today participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare for treatments that were medically unnecessary and oftentimes, never provided. In many cases, indictments and complaints allege that beneficiaries accepted cash kickbacks in return for allowing providers to submit forms saying they had received the treatments that, in reality, were unnecessary or never provided. Collectively, the doctors, health care company owners, executives and others charged in the indictments and complaints are accused of conspiring to submit more than $251 million in false claims to the Medicare program.

In Miami, 24 defendants were charged for allegedly participating in various fraud schemes that led to approximately $103 million in false billings. According to court documents, the fraud schemes involved fraudulent billing for HIV infusion services, home health care and physical therapy services, DME and pharmaceutical medications. The defendants include owners and operators of companies, doctors, nurses, and patient recruiters, as well as a medical biller who is alleged to have billed approximately $49 million for fraudulent services.

Thirty-one defendants were charged in Baton Rouge for various schemes allegedly involving fraudulent claims for DME totaling approximately $32 million. The defendants include the owners and operators of nine different purported medical services companies and four doctors, 14 patient recruiters, and other individuals who allegedly worked at the medical services companies.

Twenty-two defendants were charged in Brooklyn for their alleged participation in schemes to submit fraudulent claims totaling approximately $78 million. These fraud schemes involved false billing for physical and occupational therapy and DME. The defendants include the owners and operators, patient recruiters and employees at three different purported medical clinics and a medical equipment company, as well as three doctors. According to court documents, six of the defendants charged are serial Medicare beneficiaries, who purported to seek medical treatment from numerous providers, causing the submission of multiple claims to Medicare for purported medical treatments.

In Detroit, 11 defendants were charged for their alleged roles in schemes to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare for home health services, nerve conduction tests, and injection and infusion therapy sessions. The schemes involved a total alleged fraud of approximately $35 million and five different purported medical services companies.

Four defendants were also charged in Houston for their alleged roles in a $3 million scheme to submit fraudulent claims for DME.

In addition to making arrests around the country, law enforcement agents are executing search warrants in connection with ongoing health care fraud investigations.

“Today’s charges allege attempts by individuals to defraud the Medicare program of $251 million,” said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III. “Countless Americans rely on Medicare for their well-being, and the FBI, working in conjunction with our federal agency partners, is resolute in its commitment to stop those who would illegally manipulate the system.”

“Today’s arrests illustrate how health care fraud schemes can replicate virally and migrate rapidly across communities,” said Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General of HHS. “To combat this fraud, the government’s response must also be swift, agile, and organized—a HEAT initiative goal which is well illustrated by today’s Strike Force actions.”

The Strike Force operations in Miami, Baton Rouge, Brooklyn, Detroit and Houston are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. The HEAT task force, co-chaired by Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary G. Grindler and Deputy Secretary Bill Corr, is made up of top-level law enforcement agents, prosecutors and staff from both departments and their operating divisions. In the May 2009 announcement, Attorney General Holder and Secretary Sebelius announced the expansion of the Strike Force into Detroit and Houston to build upon existing partnerships between the agencies in a heightened effort to reduce fraud and recover taxpayer dollars. In December 2009, Strike Force operations were expanded to Brooklyn, Baton Rouge and Tampa.

Since its inception in March 2007 with Phase One in South Florida and continuing through its most recent expansion into Tampa, Fla., the Strike Force has obtained indictments of more than 810 individuals and organizations that collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $1.85 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

The cases announced today are being prosecuted and investigated by Strike Force teams comprised of attorneys from the Fraud Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and from the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Southern District of Florida, the Eastern District of New York, the Middle District of Louisiana, the Eastern District of Michigan and the Southern District of Texas; and agents from the FBI and HHS-OIG.

The Railroad Retirement Board Office of Inspector General and the Office of Personnel Management-Office of Inspector General also participated in today’s operation.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

To learn more about the HEAT team, go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

Bloggers rights

I was reading an article today at the Consumer Law and Policy Blog about bloggers rights.  It was ironic that this article came out this week because at this time there is a heated conversation about a company on our message board, and we have been looking into our right to leave this information on our website.

Here is a portion of the article.

Quixtar (also known as Amway) brought suit in Michigan against Signature, a competitor, for tortious interference with contract and other torts, and claimed that Signature was conducting a “smear campaign” through anonymous Internet criticisms.  It sought discovery in Nevada from one of Signature’s senior staff members, who refused during his deposition to identify the authors of statements on several online sources.  The deponent opposed this discovery, arguing for the application of the Cahill  standard; the trial court initially questioned the basis for the deponent’s standing to raise the free speech rights of the Does but required notice to the Does so that they could decide whether to seek to protect their own rights, which they did. The district court then applied the Cahill standard in deciding that the Does from three online sources should be identified, but the Does from two other online sources protected from identification.

In another article on the Consumer Law and Policy Blog talks about the recent ruling by a federal judge that helps to protect the owners of websites where people may post complaints from lawsuits.  Here is a portion of that article.

Lawrence White created a simple, anonymous web site at careeragentsnetwork.biz to warn prospective small business owners to check carefully before investing their savings in a the “health care employee recruiting business” opportunity offered by a company called “Career Agents Network.”  Career Agents Network sued in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, claiming that the domain name infringed its trademark and constituted cybersquatting.  Even though Sixth Circuit precedent foreclosed both causes of action, plaintiff moved ex parte for a temporary restraining order and obtained relief compelling the identification of White, and freezing the domain name, by concealing the controlling authorities from the Court.  The defendant got summary judgment (represented by private counsel)  by citing the controlling cases; but it cost the defendant nearly $20,000 to defend his rights.

We have all heard the phrase “Freedom of Speech”, but how much do we really think about that.  Is speech really “free” when lawsuits can be brought against owners of websites and end up costing them thousands of dollars for that “freedom”?

Here is something to think about . . . have you ever been in a public restroom and seen a person’s name and phone number written on the bathroom wall?  I know I have, sometimes with the comment “For a good time call”.  Now, using the same line of thinking as the people who bring these groundless lawsuits against bloggers and website owners, does the person who had their name written on that bathroom wall have a case against the establishment where their name was written on the wall?  Can they force them to paint that bathroom to cover their name and remove it from their wall?  No.  So why is it different when that “wall” is on the internet?