SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia says Operation Rubber Stamp is the first billion-dollar fraud case in district history. Investigators are ramping up their efforts to stop it from getting worse.
At a joint press conference with federal agencies and District of South Carolina U.S. Attorney Peter M. McCoy, U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine says their investigation focuses on taking down key players engaging in telemedicine fraud.
Christine says telemedicine fraud is not new, though it is something they are trying to getting front of as consumers choose that option more often during the coronavirus pandemic.
“On a basic level, these individuals and companies collect patient data. The data is then used to create fraudulent orders or prescriptions,” explained USA Christine. “The package of patient identifiers and fraudulent orders are then sold to the highest bidder consisting of durable medical equipment companies, pharmacies or sometimes other middle men.”
Christine says that information is then used to fraudulently charge government healthcare insurance programs like Medicare. In the Southern District of Georgia and the District of South Carolina, those charges have added up to $2 billion.
Nationwide, prosecutors say there have been “more than $4.5 billion in false billings from fraudulent telemedicine schemes for 86 criminal defendants.”
“For people to think this is not happening in their state or in their backyard, that’s just a wrong assumption,” said USA McCoy.
In the Southern District of Georgia and the District of South Carolina, 42 people have been indicted in schemes related to telemedicine. It includes medical professionals, marketers, and telemedicine companies. A guilty verdict could result in a 30-year prison sentence.
“Be careful giving out your medical information on the phone, especially to telemarketers. Look for unusual items paid for by your insurance — particularly Medicare,” said USA Christine.
He says that message is important for people to take note of: fraud is still happening nationwide and their investigation is still ongoing. Elderly people are especially at risk.
“We stand up here together, we stand up here unified,” said USA McCoy. “We sent a powerful message that what’s going on with fraud and telemedicine will not be tolerated in the Southern District of Georgia and it will not be tolerated in the District of South Carolina.”