On July 18, 2017, Joel R. Levin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, announced the creation of a new unit dedicated to the prosecution of criminal health care fraud violations.
The unit will include five prosecutors, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather McShain. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Chahn Lee will serve as the unit’s Senior Counsel.
“Every year, health care fraud causes millions of dollars in losses to Medicare and private insurers,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Levin. “Health care fraud also often exploits patients through unnecessary or unsafe medical procedures. Health care providers who cheat the system must be held accountable. Our office has successfully prosecuted numerous health care fraud cases in recent years. The new Health Care Fraud Unit will build on that success and bring even greater focus, efficiency and impact to our efforts in this important area.”
The Department of Justice press release announcing the new unit also detailed some of the recent successful health care fraud prosecutions brought in the Northern District of Illinois. These successful prosecutions include:
- Ten criminal convictions as part of a multi-year investigation into Sacred Heart Hospital in Chicago. For more than a decade, Sacred Heart executives conspired to pay kickbacks and bribes to physicians to induce them to refer patients for services that would be reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid. The fraud scheme earned Sacred Heart millions of dollars from Medicare and Medicaid. The convictions include EDWARD NOVAK, the hospital’s owner and chief executive officer; ROY PAYAWAL, the chief financial officer; CLARENCE NAGELVOORT and ANTHONY J. PUORRO, chief operating officers; DR. VENKATESWARA R. “V.R.” KUCHIPUDI, a physician; as well as four other physicians. Sacred Heart closed in 2013.
- The Chicago U.S. Attorney’s Office has also brought a number of successful home health care and hospice fraud prosecutions. In the home health fraud context, the office has secured convictions against DIKE AJIRI, the former owner of Chicago-based Mobile Doctors; BANIO KOROMA, a physician at Mobile Doctors; and DIANA JOCELYN GUMILA, the former clinical head of Schaumburg-based Doctor at Home. In the hospice fraud context, An investigation of PASSAGES HOSPICE in Lisle recently resulted in prison sentences for multiple defendants, including owner SETH GILLMAN, who was sentenced earlier this year to six and a half years in prison; and ANGELA ARMENTA, Passages’ former director of certified nursing assistants, who was sentenced last month to 20 months in prison.
The Health Care Fraud Unit will also focus on prosecutions related to the diversion of controlled substances, which is an area of emphasis for the office as it continues to battle the opioid crisis. The office has previously prosecuted significant diversion cases, including procuring the guilty plea of DR. SATHISH NARAYANAPPA BABU, who formerly owned Anik Life Sciences Medical Corp. in southwest suburban Darien. Dr. Babu prescribed controlled substances, including OxyContin and Hydrocodone, to certain patients without having examined them. Dr. Babu was sentenced in 2015 to 18 months in prison.