Health Care Providers Get Nailed For Using False Statements To Defraud Medicaid, Bankruptcy Court

Two unrelated Federal felony prosecutions and convictions of Texas-based health care providers announced this week  illustrate the risks that health care and other businesses and their leaders run for coloring the truth in health care billings, court filings or other dealings.    The convictions highlight the advisability for health industry and other business leaders both to exercise care to avoid engaging in potentially actionable misrepresentations when signing billing, court pleadings or other official documents, as well as implement appropriate documentation and review procedures to minimize liability risks to their organizations and themselves that may arise from reliance upon represenations of staff or others which turn out to be untrue.

On May 16, 2012, Laredo, Texas dentist Dr. Carlos Armin Morales-Ryan and his wife orthodontist Dr. Nelia Patricia Garcia-Morales pleaded guilty to a criminal information admitting they made false statements on bills to Texas Medicaid.  These guilty pleas follow the May 14, 2012 guilty plea entered by Michael Giventer  to conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud by misrepresenting his ownership and control in health care businesses. 

Texas Dentist/Orthodontist Couple Convicted of Making False Statements on Bills to Texas Medicaid

On May 16, 2012, dentist Morales-Ryan and his orthodontist wife Garcia-Morales pleaded guilty to a criminal information admitting they made false statements on bills to Texas Medicaid.

Morales-Ryan and Garcia-Morales owned and operated Orthogenesis International Centre, a Laredo dentistry and orthodontics business.  A substantial portion of their business was targeted to rendering services to Medicaid-eligible children. Applicable Texas law and Medicaid regulations required the doctors to be present in their offices when services were rendered on Medicaid patients as a prerequisite to receiving payment for the services from Medicaid. Similar consumer protection laws and regulations are applicable to most types of physicians for many of the services they render in Texas, regardless of whether the patient is or is not a Medicaid beneficiary.

Morales-Ryan’s signed plea agreement states that though he and Garcia-Morales were in Hawaii on October 12, 2007, he falsely represented to Medicaid that he performed an evaluation and management of a new patient on that date claiming entitlement to payment. However, at the time he made this false representation to Medicaid, he and Garcia-Morales knew the statement was false and that neither of them performed that service on or about that date. Similarly, Garcia-Morales admitted that though she and Morales-Ryan were en route to the U.S. Virgin Islands on March 23, 2007, she falsely represented to Medicaid that she performed an orthodontic retention on that date claiming entitlement to payment. However, at the time she made this false representation to Medicaid, she and Morales-Ryan knew the statement was false and that neither of them performed an orthodontic retention on or about that date.

As a result of their plea agreements, they will be sentenced to five years probation and will pay restitution in the amount of $686,545 to the State of Texas Health and Human Services Commission – Office of Inspector General. 

Court records reflect that this is not the first time Morales-Ryan has been in legal trouble.  Morales-Ryan previously was convicted of 13 counts of practing medicine without a license for performing non-dentistry and non-non-oral and maxillofacial surgeriescosmetic surgery procedures including including: tummy tucks, liposuction, and breast augmentation.  See here.

The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners previously suspended the license to practice dentistry of Morales-Ryanin Texas.  See here.  

Giventer Conspiracy To Commit Bankruptcy Plea

On May 14, 2012, Michael Giventer pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud.  Giventer’s wife, Julia Shavabskaya, previously pleaded guilty to the same charge on April 30, 2012.

Justice Department officials charged that from on August, 2002 to July 2010, Giventer caused the incorporation of two business entities, Ambucare Inc. and Open Diagnostic Imaging Inc., as holding companies to receive income from clinics providing various forms of health care services to individuals who were covered by Workers’ Compensation insurance.

Ownership of both Ambucare and Open Diagnostic Imaging was placed solely in the name of Shvabskaya. Through these two companies, Giventer received income from a number of these clinics, such as Valley Center for Pain and Stress Management, Functional Pain Center, Palladium for Surgery and Valley Comprehensive Pain Management.  Unrelated court records reflect that at least one of these organizations, Valley Center for Pain and Stress Management during the period was accused by insurer TML Intergovernmental Risk Pool of seeking worker’s compensation benefits for medically unnecessary services.  Valley Comprehensive Pain Management v. TML Intergovernmental Risk Pool (May 19, 2004).

On November 4, 2005, Giventer filed for bankruptcy under chapter 7 in the Southern District of Texas. During the bankruptcy, Giventer was required to file under penalty of perjury various Schedules consisting of assets, debts, liabilities and a Statement of Financial Affairs in which he was required to disclose among other things, his income, debts, property and transfers of property. In some of the documents, Giventer indicated he did not own an interest in Ambucare, Open Diagnostic Imaging and other properties and assets.  In truth, however Giventer controlled, managed and received income from these entities and made all decisions about how their income would be distributed. Shavabskaya falsely testified that she owned the companies and that Giventer did not own or operate them. Additionally, both Giventer and Shavabskaya knew and falsely denied under oath any ownership interest in these entities in order to deceive, frustrate and prevent creditors and the bankruptcy Trustee from identifying and collecting assets as part of the bankruptcy estate to be distributed for the benefit of creditors.

Sentencing of both Giventer and Shavabskaya on the bankruptcy fraud conspiracy guilty pleas is scheduled on September 24, 2012.  Each faces a maximum sentence of up to five years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

The continuing focus and success of federal health care fraud and related investigation and enforcement efforts continue to prove the need for health care providers and payers to strengthen their compliance practices and documentation to avoid getting caught in the ever tightening health care fraud dragnet.  The prosecutions of Giventer and Shavabskaya highlight that health care providers and their leaders need to manage prosecution risks under a broad range of laws in addition to focusing on management of the widely recognized exposures to prosecution under federal health care fraud laws, 

Health Care Providers Must Act To Manage Risks

In response to the growing emphasis and effectiveness of Federal officials in investigating and taking action against health care providers and organizations, health care providers covered by federal false claims, referral, kickback and other health care fraud laws should consider auditing the adequacy of existing practices, tightening training, oversight and controls on billing and other regulated conduct, reaffirming their commitment to compliance to workforce members and constituents and taking other proper steps to help prevent, detect and timely redress health care fraud exposures within their organization and to position their organization to respond and defend against potential investigations or charges.

For Legal Representation or More Information

If you need help reviewing or responding to these or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Her experience includes advising hospitals, nursing home, home health, rehabilitation and other health care providers and health industry clients to set up and administer compliance and risk management policies; prevent, conduct and investigate, and respond to peer review and other quality concerns; and to respond to Board of Medicine, Department of Aging & Disability, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, HHS, DOD and other health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns.

A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to obtain information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer, see here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

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©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

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