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Remarks by Lanny A. Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, at the Medicare Fraud Strike Force Press Conference

NEW YORK, Dec. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --The following are the remarks by Lanny A. Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the criminal division, at the Medicare Fraud Strike Force press conference:

Thank you, Secretary Sebelius. And thank you for the enormous effort everyone at HHS is putting into the HEAT initiative.

Together, our Departments have and will continue to accomplish significant and lasting results.

We've made tremendous progress in fighting Medicare fraud in South Florida, Los Angeles, Houston and Detroit using our Medicare Fraud Strike Force.

And now, we're putting even more pressure on these fraudsters by expanding the Strike Force to new high-fraud areas.

As Secretary Sebelius just announced, we are expanding operations to Tampa, Baton Rouge and Brooklyn, working with the U.S. Attorneys' Offices in each district to aggressively target the worst offenders.

While we continue to seek out high-fraud areas to target, we are also continuing our efforts in existing Strike Force locations to make sure we keep the pressure on the problem there, too.

Just this morning, agents from the HHS Office of the Inspector General and the FBI arrested 24 defendants in Miami, Detroit and New York. And yesterday, agents arrested four individuals in Miami.

These defendants are alleged to have participated in a variety of Medicare fraud schemes.

In Detroit, we allege that the defendants fraudulently billed Medicare for physical and occupational therapy as well as diagnostic testing.

In Miami, it is fraudulent HIV infusion clinics and the most recent trend - fraudulent billing related to home health care.

And here in New York, where we are just getting started, we've already seen fraud schemes involving durable medical equipment and diagnostic testing.

I'll let Ben tell you a little more about what the Strike Force is seeing here in New York.

But no matter what type of Medicare fraud is committed or where, there is one common denominator - greed. These people rob Medicare of precious dollars by fraudulently billing for services neither rendered nor needed. And when someone sends fraudulent bills to Medicare, they are stealing American taxpayer dollars that are intended to help those most in need.

Medicare fraud is not a victimless crime: it hurts our most vulnerable citizens, who rely on Medicare for essential medical care, and it hurts every American taxpayer, by raising the cost of health care. We must be vigilant and aggressive in fighting this particular crime.

And that is why the Strike Force model is so important to our efforts to both prosecute existing crime and deter future crime.

Rather than waiting for people to tell us fraud is happening, we're coming to the criminals and stopping fraud as it occurs.

By using data analysis to identify "hot spots" for Medicare fraud, we can target our resources and deploy the Strike Force where it can most effectively supplement the efforts already underway by U.S. Attorneys' Offices around the country.

The Medicare data gives us an idea where to go, but data analysis is the beginning of the process, not the endgame.

Once we're up and running in a city, we use traditional law enforcement techniques to build the cases and bring them as quickly as possible - to stop ongoing fraud and maximize the deterrent impact.

And we are holding Medicare fraudsters accountable - nearly 200 defendants in our Strike Force cases have been sentenced to prison.

The average sentence for these defendants exceeds 45 months - that's more than 20 percent higher than the overall national average sentence in federal health care fraud cases over the last five years.

Since it started two and a half years ago, the Strike Force teams have indicted more than 460 individuals that have collectively billed the Medicare program more than one billion dollars.

These indictments have resulted in more than 250 guilty pleas and more than 20 trial convictions, and seek court-ordered restitution to the Medicare program for actual losses exceeding $420 million in fraudulent payments made by Medicare.

There's no question that combating health care fraud is challenging and demanding, especially when our resources are limited and the need is great.

But the breadth of these challenges will not stop us from pursuing health care fraud vigorously.

Together with HHS's health care fraud prevention efforts and the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, we are striking back against the most egregious offenders and deterring others from considering similar illegal activity.

Yesterday and today, 28 people have been arrested in three Strike Force cities - and you can expect more, in the three new cities announced today and as part of our continuing efforts in South Florida, Houston, Detroit and Los Angeles.

Now more than ever, we must and we will use all tools at our disposal to protect these precious Medicare dollars from waste, fraud and abuse.

I'll now turn it over to U.S. Attorney Ben Campbell. Ben?

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice
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