By Kanishka Singh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Georgia man who was convicted late last year for his role in a $463 million genetic testing scheme to defraud Medicare was sentenced to 27 years in prison on Friday, the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement.
Minal Patel, 44, of Atlanta, owned LabSolutions LLC, a lab enrolled with Medicare that performed sophisticated genetic tests. Patel conspired with patient brokers, telemedicine companies, and call centers to target Medicare beneficiaries with telemarketing calls falsely stating that Medicare covered expensive cancer genetic tests, according to prosecutors.
Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people over 65 and the disabled.
After the Medicare beneficiaries agreed to take a test, Patel paid kickbacks and bribes to patient brokers to obtain signed doctors’ orders authorizing the tests from telemedicine companies, prosecutors said. To conceal the kickbacks and bribes, Patel required patient brokers to sign sham contracts, they said.
Patel was convicted by a federal jury in Florida late last year of health care fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and payment of illegal health care kickbacks.
From July 2016 through August 2019, LabSolutions submitted more than $463 million in claims to Medicare, including for medically unnecessary genetic tests, of which Medicare paid over $187 million, the Justice Department said. In that time frame, Patel personally received over $21 million in Medicare proceeds, prosecutors added.
Patel was indicted in 2019 on charges of healthcare fraud and paying and receiving kickbacks to and from marketers who collected cheek swabs from patients for genetic testing.
Back then, U.S. federal agents raided genetic testing laboratories, and 35 people were criminally charged in four states in a crackdown on genetic testing fraud that officials said caused $2.1 billion in losses to federal healthcare insurance programs.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio)