Owners of family practice chain agree to pay $2M to settle fraud case

Legal cases
The owners of a chain of practices in South Carolina agreed to pay $2 million to settle fraud charges.

The owners of a chain of family practice centers in South Carolina have agreed to pay the government $2 million to settle alleged false claims act violations.

Family Medicine Centers (FMC) of South Carolina agreed to pay $1.56 million to resolve a lawsuit alleging it submitted false claims to the Medicare and TRICARE programs, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition, its principal owner and former CEO, Stephen F. Serbin, M.D., and its former laboratory director, Victoria Serbin, agreed to pay $443,000 to resolve the lawsuit.

Family Medicine Centers is a physician-owned chain of family medicine clinics located in and around Columbia, South Carolina.

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The settlements resolve allegations that Family Medicine Centers submitted claims to Medicare that violated the Stark Law, which prohibits a clinic from billing Medicare for certain services ordered by physicians who have a financial relationship with the entity. In this case, the government alleged the chain violated the law by its incentive compensation plan that paid doctors a percentage of the value of laboratory and other diagnostic tests they ordered through FMC.

In a statement, FMC denied any wrongdoing and said the settlement was a business decision to avoid years of costly litigation, according to The State.

In other news, the government announced it has indicted a former employee for embezzling $500,000 from a medical practice in Williamsburg, Virginia. A federal grand jury indicted Sharea Darnell, 33, on fraud charges for allegedly embezzling the money while employed as the administrator at Cullom Eye and Laser Center, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Investigators said she used credit cards from the center to pay for her son’s private school tuition, maid services for her home, entertainment, dining, high-end clothing, jewelry and airline travel, as well as taking more than $90,000 in cash advances.

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