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53 indicted in alleged Medicare fraud

Detroit FBI Arrests
Attorney General Eric Holder, left, accompanied by FBI Director Robert Mueller, center, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Wednesday, June 24.Gerald Herbert / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Federal authorities indicted 53 people on Wednesday for schemes to cheat Medicaid out of $50 million.

Suspects were arrested in Detroit, Miami, and Denver as part of a wide-ranging effort by the government to crack down on those allegedly defrauding the government-funded health care program for the elderly and disabled.

Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and FBI Director Robert Mueller announced the charges at a news conference in Washington.

Sebelius said the Obama administration is determined to crack down on Medicare fraud through new teams of investigators detecting patterns of false billing. Forty of the suspects have already been arrested and the rest are being sought, authorities said.

"The Obama administration is committed to turning up the heat on Medicare fraud," said Sebelius.

The announcement came in a week that the administration is making a major push to advance health care reform legislation.

Prosecutors charge the suspects concocted schemes to submit bogus claims to Medicare for treatments that were medically unnecessary and in many cases never provided.

Some of the beneficiaries accepted cash payments in exchange for signing paperwork claiming they had received certain medical treatments, authorities said.

The charges were filed against the operators of infusion therapy and physical therapy clinics. Those charged include doctors, medical assistants, company owners and executives, as well as those who claimed to be patients.

Officials routinely say fraud costs the Medicare and Medicaid programs billions of dollars every year, but those two programs are enormously expensive, costing the U.S. government some $650 billion a year.

A day earlier, prosecutors in Miami announced arrests in a separate Medicare fraud case. In that case, eight people were charged with trying to steal $100 million from Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Officials said that while the type of fraud was similar, the two operations were not related.