Man pleads guilty to fraudulent medical 'tricorder' scheme

In the 1960s science fiction television series Star Trek, a medical "tricorder" was used by Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy to diagnose diseases and collect bodily information about a patient. Now, an Illinois man is in legal hot water, facing charges in a $25 million fraud scheme for peddling a nonexistent telemedicine computer tablet named after the fictional McCoy character, reports a Bloomberg article.

Howard Leventhal of Long Grove, Ill., pleaded guilty last week before U.S. District Justice Brian M. Cogan in Brooklyn, N.Y., to wire fraud for falsely claiming that his company, Neovision, had a contract with the Canadian department of health. According to Bloomberg, Leventhal, who faces up to 22 years in prison, told investors his company had agreements to provide Canada with the telemedicine device, using the fake pacts to get Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Paragon Financial Group to give him $800,000 in exchange for the right to collect money he said the Canadian government owed him.

Leventhal told Paragon executives Health Canada owed him as much as $4 million and the agency had agreed to purchase his device, prosecutors said. He also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft for stealing the persona of former Canadian Deputy Minister of Health Glenda Yeates. Leventhal sent Paragon officials what he said was a contract between Neovision and the Canadian government, with a forged signature by Yeates, for $8.2 million, according to Bloomberg.

He also used the fake agreement to solicit more than $25 million from other potential investors, including an undercover law enforcement agent.

Though Leventhal's device was a flight of fantasy, chip maker Qualcomm is offering $10 million to inventors who can develop a Star Trek-like "tricorder" that uses sensors to diagnose more than a dozen medical ailments, including heart disease and diabetes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is offering regulatory input to the more than 300 teams competing in the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, a global competition to develop a consumer-friendly device capable of diagnosing and interpreting a set of 15 health conditions and capturing key vital signs. 

The FDA is providing regulatory input to participating teams throughout the competition via a three-tiered online help desk. The first tier provides general input on frequently asked questions on FDA regulations, the second is more specific to the devices under development as part of the competition, and the third includes a method for confidential communications between the agency and the teams.

To learn more:
- read Bloomberg article