Georgia nurse admits involvement in national telemedicine scheme

Crime & Safety

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A Georgia woman admitted involvement in a fraudulent Medicare scheme where she was reimbursed for medical equipment and genetic testing.

According to a federal court for the Southern District of Georgia, Robin Darnell, known as “Nurse Robin,” to co-conspirators, pleaded guilty to an Information charging her with one count of Conspiracy.

Darnell faces up to five years in prison, financial penalties and restitution, David H. Estes said, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Also, up to three years of supervised release may follow her sentence.

Darnell took part in a nationwide telemedicine kickback scheme from June 2018 to September 2020 where she recruited medical professionals to order medical equipment and genetic testing. Darnell received thousands of orders containing falsified records, according to court documents. Her conspirators used these orders to send Medicare bills each worth thousands of dollars.

“Darnell took advantage of a system that was set up to help healthcare patients get much-needed government assistance during a pandemic,” Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta said. “Her actions not only affect those patients, but every citizen whose tax dollars support programs like Medicare. The FBI is determined to hold her accountable and anyone who would commit such fraud.”

Darnell would tell physicians a team of nurses would contact their patients via telemedicine in exchange for an order of the equipment and testing. However, Darnell lied to physicians about having a team of nurses to do so.

“Telemedicine has played an increasingly important role in providing accessible healthcare, particularly during the pandemic,” Estes said. “With our law enforcement partners, we will continue to work diligently to identify and shut down those who would attempt to use technology and deceit to defraud taxpayer funded safety net programs.”

The Southern District of Georgia charged 33 defendants involved in the scheme and total $1.5 billion in losses to Medicare and Medicaid in the area.

The investigation continues as schemes become more popular especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The FBI asks anyone with information regarding telemedicine schemes call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

“Telemedicine has become a valuable tool for delivering health services in this time of pandemic. However, bad actors are abusing these tools to commit health care fraud,” Derrick L. Jackson said, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “When marketing and so-called telehealth services are misused, alleged violators can expect aggressive investigation and swift prosecution.”

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