Defendant is part of record-setting telemedicine fraud prosecutions in Southern District
SAVANNAH, GA: A Florida man who operated a durable medical equipment company has been sentenced to federal prison for participating in a commercial bribery conspiracy that involved a health care program.
Patrick Wolfe, 48, of Belleair Beach, Fla., the operator of Wilmington Island Medical Inc., which does business as WI Medical Inc., was sentenced to 24 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr. after pleading guilty to one count of Conspiracy, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Wolfe also is ordered to pay $549,476.17 in restitution, and after completion of his prison term must serve three years of supervised release.
There is no parole in the federal system.
“After ripping off taxpayer-provided health care benefits to fuel his own greed, Patrick Wolfe had the audacity to flaunt his ill-gotten gains by fueling up and driving around in a Maserati,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “A stint behind bars will put the brakes on this conspiracy.”
In pleading guilty to Conspiracy, Wolfe admitted paying kickbacks in return for “leads,” which were in actuality signed orders from physicians and nurse practitioners, and then billing those orders to a Medicare Advantage plan using WI Medical.
The financial total for orders facilitated through this scheme is alleged to be in the millions of dollars. Medicare beneficiaries were located in the Southern District of Georgia and elsewhere.
“This sentence will hold Wolfe accountable for the damage he caused to Medicare and every taxpayer in this country,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Government-subsidized programs like Medicare help protect the healthcare needs of deserving Americans, and the FBI is determined to stop people like Wolfe from illegally profiting off of them.”
“This sentence is a warning to those who enrich themselves through fraud scams at the expense of taxpayers,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. “Working closely with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to crack down on such schemes, which waste taxpayer funds designed to care for vulnerable patients.”
“Our nation’s healthcare system cannot tolerate kickbacks to physicians and pharmacies while criminals line their pockets with taxpayer-funded healthcare dollars, particularly in light of our nation’s current struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Savannah Resident Agent in Charge Glen M. Kessler, U.S. Secret Service. “Cases of this magnitude can only be tackled using a strategy that recognizes that the most effective way to fight these large criminal networks is by combining the strengths, resources, and expertise of our federal agencies.”
The Southern District of Georgia has now charged 31 individuals and companies as part of the nationwide crackdown on fraudulent genetic testing, and prescribing of orthotic braces and pain creams, identifying more than $1.5 billion in losses to Medicare and Medicaid for defendants charged int the Southern District alone.
This investigation is ongoing. As telemedicine becomes an increasing part of our healthcare system, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, vigilance in ensuring that fraud and kickbacks do not usurp the legitimate practice of medicine by electronic means is more important than ever. If you are aware of any fraud or kickbacks relating to telemedicine, including COVID-19 fraud, please call the FBI hotline at 1-800-CALL-FBI.
This particular prosecution resulted from a joint investigation of multiple agencies and offices. Acting U.S. Attorney Estes acclaimed the hard work of the investigatory team, led by FBI – Savannah, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the United States Secret Service.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan A. Porter prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.