Medicare fraud trend up in Tampa - WFLA News Channel 8

Medicare fraud trend up in Tampa

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A fraud trend that involves paying off Medicare beneficiaries to use their numbers on fake billings is popping up in Tampa, investigators say. 

The fraud involving "complicit beneficiaries" has been around for a while in Miami, but now appears to be migrating to the Tampa area - perhaps as fraudsters look for a new pool of recruits.

 "You can only open up so many clinics in a geographical area before you run out of complicit beneficiaries," said FBI supervising special agent Andrew Sekela.

 The clinics themselves are fake, but may appear real to passersby. Organizers even set up patient appointments so the business looks busy.

 Investigators say in one case, four Miami men ran several fake clinics out of a Tampa building, recruiting Tampa area beneficiaries for the alleged scheme.

 Fraudsters appear to be targeting the Cuban American community in Tampa to find beneficiaries, said Ryan Lynch, assistant special agent in charge of the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General in Tampa. Complicit beneficiaries are offered cash kickbacks to let their number be used to bill Medicare for services never rendered.

 "Someone from their own community would say to them, 'If you let me use your number, I will pay you $100-200 per use of that number. And if law enforcement contacts you, you tell them that you got the service, even though we both know that you didn't get the service," Lynch said.

 Beneficiaries who allow their numbers to be used can face federal charges.

 The new trend is one of the reasons Tampa was recently chosen to host a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gathering of fraud investigators from across the country.


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