New Jersey physician pleads guilty to role in massive telemedicine fraud scheme

Money, handcuffs and a stethoscope
A New Jersey physician has admitted to his role in a massive telemedicine fraud scheme. (Getty/Alex_str)

A New Jersey physician has pleaded guilty to his role in a massive telemedicine fraud scheme, one of the largest healthcare fraud cases ever investigated by the federal government. 

Joseph DeCorso, 62, a doctor based in Toms River, New Jersey, entered a guilty plea late last week to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, and his sentencing is set for January 2020, the Department of Justice announced

DeCorso was one of 24 telemedicine executives, medical device executives and physicians charged in April by DOJ in playing a role in a “complex, multi-layered scheme” to defraud Medicare, with losses totaling $1.2 billion to the government. 

In the scheme, medical device companies paid kickbacks and bribes to physicians working for telemedicine companies to induce them to prescribe orthopedic braces that were not medically necessary, according to DOJ. All told, Medicare was billing for $1.7 billion in such braces and paid out $900 million. 

RELATED: 3 doctors, cardiac practice agree to pay $1.1M to to settle allegations of kickbacks for genetic testing referrals 

As part of his plea, DeCorso admitted to working for two different telemedicine companies where he wrote orders for braces that were not medically necessary for Medicare beneficiaries between July 2017 and March 2019, DOJ said. 

DeCorso admitted to writing orders for braces without speaking to some beneficiaries, according to the announcement, and then filing falsified orders that indicated he held those conversations and conducted the appropriate diagnostic testing. 

DOJ said DeCorso’s actions led to a $13 million loss to Medicare, and as part of his plea, he agreed to pay $7 million in restitution. 

DeCorso is the second person charged in the case to plead guilty this month. DOJ announced at the beginning of September that Lester Stockett, CEO of telemedicine company AffordADoc, pleaded guilty to receiving bribes in exchange for inducing physicians working for his company to prescribe orthopedic braces that were not medically necessary. 

Co-conspirators at Stockett’s company billed Medicare for $424 million in medically unnecessary braces, DOJ said, with $200 million paid out. Indictments against others in the case remain pending. 

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