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Tampa’s Largest Ambulance Provider Agrees to Settle Medicare Fraud Lawsuit Filed by Berger Montague and Wenzel Fenton Cabassa for $5.5 Million

DATE: January 30, 2018

January 30, 2018. PHILADELPHIA—Berger Montague and Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. of Tampa are pleased to announce that AmeriCare Ambulance Service, Inc. and its sister company, AmeriCare ALS, Inc. (collectively, AmeriCare), agreed to pay $5.5 million to resolve  a False Claims Act lawsuit filed by both firms on behalf of their client. The lawsuit alleges that AmeriCare defrauded the government by billing Medicare for thousands of medically unnecessary services.

AmeriCare provides ambulance transportation services and often provides these services to Medicare beneficiaries. Medicare only covers ambulance transportation services when other methods of transportation (such as a non-ambulance stretcher van or a car) would endanger a patient’s health. The firms’ client worked as a paramedic at AmeriCare and discovered the alleged fraud during his employment.

The client alleges that AmeriCare routinely asked him to falsify records to misrepresent the medical condition of patients to create the false impression that the services were medically necessary. When he expressed concerns about this to AmeriCare management, he was fired. The client then filed claims under the False Claims Act.

In addition to paying approximately $5.5 million, AmeriCare has also agreed to enter into an integrity agreement with the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Shauna Itri, counsel for the whistleblower stated: “We worked very hard on this case since the time it was filed in 2013 — the team earned this outstanding result.” Itri further stated, “We want whistleblowers to be proud about their actions, and we believe the settlement is something our client can be proud of.” Wenzel added, “The United States faces a crisis because of the rising cost of healthcare. Fraud must stop — it hurts patients who won’t be able to get care. All healthcare workers should be vigilant about their employer’s misdeeds and call us so we can help stop fraud and protect their job rights.”

The case is United States ex rel. Sharpe v. AmeriCare Ambulance Service, No. 8:13-cv-01171 (M.D. Fla. 2013).

For more than a decade, the Berger Montague, Whistleblowers, Qui Tam & False Claims Act Practice Group has represented whistleblowers in matters involving healthcare fraud, defense contracting fraud, IRS fraud, securities fraud, and commodities fraud, helping to return more than $3 billion to federal and state governments. In return, whistleblower clients retaining Berger Montague to represent them in state and federal courts have received more than $500 million in rewards.

Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. is a full-service employee rights law firm and represents employees in a variety of cases, including whistleblowing, retaliation, harassment, discrimination, sexual harassment, unpaid wages and overtime, contract negotiations, claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and claims under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

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