A Michigan doctor has pleaded no contest to two counts of Medicaid fraud in relation to receiving illegal kickback payments for referrals. Dr. Kevin S. Witt was officially charged in court with the violations, which fall under the False Claims Act. Each charge carries up to four years in prison and a $30,000 fine.
Dr. Witt has been officially licensed to practice osteopathic medicine and surgery since July of 1994. His office closed promptly after the arrest and a sign was taped to the front door stating that it would reopen at a later date. The sign also said that different physicians would be taking over Dr. Witt’s practice and patient load.
Dr. Witt was arrested by Attorney General Investigators last year in connection with an illegal kickback scheme that involved eight other healthcare professionals. Dr. Witt is accused of receiving illegal healthcare kickbacks in the form of cash payments in exchange for referring his patients to facilities that were owned or operated by Babubhai Rathod. As part of Dr. Witt’s plea agreement, he will testify about the inner-workings of the illegal kickback scheme and pay the required fines.
Meet “Doctor Bob”
Under the Federal Anti-Kickback Act, physicians are not permitted to accept payments or goods that could influence or reward any kind of medical referral decisions. This includes the referral of Medicare and Medicaid patients, along with other government funded healthcare programs.
According to the court documentation, each of the defendants charged in this illegal kickback scheme were referring patients to medical facilities owned by a man named Babubhai Rathod. Shockingly, Rathod, who is affectionately called “Dr. Bob”, is not even a doctor. In order to entice patient referrals, Dr. Bob bribed medical professionals with cash kickbacks that ranged from $100 to $1,000.
Dr. Bob owns several medical clinics, outpatient rehabilitation facilities and home healthcare companies. Two of the businesses listed on the official indictment are Lakeshore Spine and Pain and U.S. Rehab Services. Rajesh Makwana is listed as the administrator of Lakeshore Spine & Pain, while Raju Nakum is listed as the manager of U.S. Rehab Services. Both men are accused of helping Dr. Bob by paying or directing other employees to pay illegal kickbacks in return for patient referrals.
Details of the Fraudulent Activity
Authorities say that Dr. Bob, with the help of Nakum and Makwana, began paying illegal kickbacks to medical professionals in order to increase patient referrals and revenue. Once the patients were sent to Dr. Bob’s clinics for treatment, they would receive electrodiagnostic tests (or tests that measure the electrical activity of muscles and nerves), physical therapy or home healthcare services. Many of the tests and procedures were medically unnecessary, but Dr. Bob ordered the treatments none the less and billed either Medicare or Medicaid for reimbursement.
In an attempt to cover his tracks, Dr. Bob attempted to disguise the illegal kickback payments as reimbursement for various daily expenses. These expenses included mileage, fees for paying a medical director, continuing education classes and contractual labor fees.
“Congress intended that medical decisions be made with the patient’s best interest in mind and not because the referral of a patient will result in a financial benefit to the referring physician,” said U.S. Attorney Don Davis.
“The FBI will remain vigilant in stopping healthcare fraud in the State of Michigan. This type of crime affects all of our health care premiums and serves as a drain on society. The indictments of these physicians and others send a strong message that abuse of the health care system will not be tolerated,” stressed Special Agent in Charge, Andrew G. Arena of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Detroit Field Division.