2 area residents indicted in $56 million Medicare fraud

Published 1:03 pm Thursday, September 25, 2014

From staff reports

NEW ORLEANS — A New Orleans grand jury today indicted seven defendants, including two River Parishes residents, for their roles in a $56 million Medicare fraud scheme that operated in New Orleans and surrounding communities.

Authorities said 13 defendants have been charged in this case, three of whom pleaded guilty to Wednesday.

Suspects in the case include Latausha Dannel, 34, of Laplace and Christopher White, 48, of Destrehan, charged for their roles in a home health care fraud scheme involving thousands of Medicare recipients.

Mark Morad, 51, of Slidell; Dr. Barbara Smith, 65, of Metairie, Louisiana; and Dr. Roy Berkowitz, 68, of Slidell, were previously charged for their participation in the scheme, and Thursday’s indictment added new charges against them.

Thursday’s superseding indictment comes one day after Dr. Alvin Darby, 58, of Slidell; Demetrius Temple, 54, of New Orleans; and Nicole Oliver, 44, of Napoleonville each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Sentencing for each is scheduled for Jan. 7.

The indictment alleges the defendants operated a number of companies in and around New Orleans that purported to offer home health services and durable medical equipment to Medicare beneficiaries.

The companies, Interlink Health Care Services Inc., Memorial Home Health Inc., Lakeland Health Care Services Inc., Lexmark Health Care LLC, Med Rite Pharmacy Inc. and Medical Specialists of New Orleans, billed Medicare claiming they provided home health services and durable medical equipment to Medicare beneficiaries, but the vast majority of these services and equipment were not medically necessary or not provided.

Authorities said Dannel was an office manager who oversaw daily operations at the home health companies. White allegedly performed accounting services for these companies, and helped conceal the scheme by fabricating false tax and employee records.

From 2007 through 2014, the companies allegedly involved in the scheme submitted more than $56 million in claims to Medicare, the majority of which are fraudulent. Medicare paid approximately $50.7 million on those claims.

The case is being investigated by HHS-OIG and the FBI and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

This week’s announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Eastern District of Louisiana, Special Agent in Charge Michael Anderson of the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Mike Fields of the Dallas Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.