Home health cases continue to mount as 2014 ends

Indictments, plea deals and sentencing for multi-million dollar home health fraud cases continued to roll in throughout the country. One even involves an ex-mayor.

Ken Harycki--the former mayor of Stillwater, Minnesota who abruptly resigned in November--was charged by the U.S Attorney in Minneapolis in connection to a home health scam that defrauded Medicaid of millions of dollars, according to the StarTribune.

Beginning in 2007, Harycki performed accounting services for Thurlee Belfrey and his brother, Roylee, who owned multiple home health businesses. Harycki, who is expected to plead guilty, allegedly helped hide fraudulent payments by creating shell companies and utilizing several bank accounts in other people's names to make numerous transfers each day. Just a day prior to being charged, the Stillwater City Council recognized Harycki for his service to the city.  

Interim mayor Mike Polehn told the Tribune he was confident Harycki didn't interfere with the city's taxpayer money. "We have everything under control in the city," he said. "There's a check and a double-check and a triple-check."

In Louisiana, the mastermind of a $56 million fraud scheme pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud charges, according to an FBI release. Per court documents, Mark Morad operated the scheme through several companies, filing fraudulent claims for home health services and durable medical equipment (DME) for New Orleans Medicare beneficiaries. Morad paid kickbacks for Medicare beneficiary numbers and his accomplice, Divini Luccioni, by signing home health referrals and DME prescriptions that were not provided. Over the course of seven years, Medicare paid more than $50 million of these false claims to Morad.

Meanwhile, an Arlington, Texas physician has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for his involvement in a Medicare scheme that totaled more than $100 million, according to the Dallas Morning News. Joseph Megwa collaborated with more than 230 Dallas-area home healthcare agencies to submit false claims to Medicare. Ferguson Ikhile, owner of the largest agency, already pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud and testified against Megwa.

Finally, Florance Bikundi, the owner of three District of Columbia-based home care agencies who was arrested earlier this year for a fraud scheme totaling more than $75 million, has been indicted on six additional healthcare fraud charges, adding to the nine previous charges that were already unsealed, according to an FBI release. Bikundi was arrested in February, along with more than 20 others, after authorities uncovered one of the largest home health fraud schemes to date. Sixteen of those arrested have pleaded guilty, including personal care aides and patient recruiters. Bikundi allegedly began the scheme in 2007 despite having been barred from federal healthcare programs years earlier.

Home healthcare, along with increased Medicare payments for house calls, has been a particular concern for fraud officials. Medicare spending rose 40 percent from 2006 to 2012, FierceHealthPayer: AntiFraud previously reported.

For more:
- read The Star Tribune article
- see the Louisiana FBI release
- here's The Dallas Morning News story
- read the District of Columbia FBI release