Settlements, News

Justice for whistleblower who uncovered cardiology Medicare fraud

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Seeger Weiss is pleased to announce a settlement resolving allegations that the Advanced Cardiovascular Care Center P.A., including its owner and its administrator, violated the False Claims Act (FCA). The case first came to the attention of the Justice Department in 2016, when a former cardiologist with the center, represented by Seeger Weiss partner Shauna Itri, filed a sealed lawsuit under the FCA’s qui tam provision. That provision allows individuals who know of fraud to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the United States.

“While employed by the practice, my client spoke up about the fraud internally and was marginalized,” Itri said. “Eventually, he reported the fraud to the medical board and filed this case. Meanwhile, my client was repeatedly harassed.”

“He worked so hard to bring this wrongdoing to light, and with this settlement, he finally got justice.” Itri added. “That, to me, felt good.”

Between 2013 and 2016, Advanced Cardiovascular Care Center submitted claims to Medicare for services that were neither reasonable nor medically necessary, including cardiac external counterpulsation treatments, transthoracic echocardiography studies, and duplex scans. Though Medicare requires direct supervision over these cardiology services, the company billed the government for services under the owner, Dr. Annie T. Varughese’s, provider number when she was not in the office or even in the country.

“The largest area of fraud committed against the federal government today is by unethical healthcare providers who inflate or fabricate Medicare or Medicaid bills,” said Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI. “Billing Medicare for services that are not necessary and/or not provided constitutes fraud. American taxpayers are the ones who ultimately bear the financial burden created by this.”

The settlement, totaling $400,000, was first announced by U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

For well over a decade, Itri has led litigation teams in complex fraud cases in both state and federal courts. Itri’s nationwide practice has focused on representing plaintiffs in various settings — including securities and consumer class actions; antitrust; and cases involving patient harm. Itri also has extensive experience representing whistleblowers in False Claims Act lawsuits and other whistleblower programs throughout the United States. She has been honored by the Philadelphia Business Journal as one of the “Best of the Bar” and by The Legal Intelligencer as a “Distinguished Leader.”

Seeger Weiss has successfully represented relators in many qui tam proceedings. The firm served as relator counsel in United States ex rel. Alexander, et al. v. Warner Chilcott plc, et al., in which $125 million was recovered in connection with a sprawling healthcare scheme. The firm also was counsel to the whistleblower in People of the State of New York, ex rel. Vijay Tharwani v. Mohanbhai Ramchandani and Mohan’s Custom Tailors, Inc., which resulted in the recovery of $5.5 million in connection with a decade — long tax evasion scheme. From its offices in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, Seeger Weiss has represented over 10,000 individuals, companies, and governments across the U.S. who have been injured or defrauded on a massive scale.

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Since its establishment in 1999, Seeger Weiss has led some of the most complex and high-profile litigations in the U.S.