Doctor Billed the Feds Millions for Treating Dead Patients

graveyardA Georgia physician who submitted tens of thousands of bogus Medicare and Medicaid claims for counseling sessions with dead patients pleaded guilty Monday in federal district court to two counts of health care fraud.

Between 2007 and 2009, Dr. Robert Williams, 72, of Atlanta submitted more than 50,000 Medicare and 40,000 Medicaid claims totaling more than $2 million for group psychology sessions in nursing homes -- despite the fact many of his "patients" were deceased.

"With so many elderly citizens and others who need specialized psychological care, this defendant ignored his duty as a doctor and became a billing machine who claimed to treat patients who were in fact dead," U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement."This blatant attempt to rip off the system took funds and care away from real live patients with real problems. Medicare and Medicaid need all the money they can get for legitimate patient care, and this physician will get none of that money," Yates added.

Williams was a licensed physician practicing in the Atlanta area, and from July 2007 through October 2009, he contracted with a medical services company to provide group psychological therapy sessions to patients in a number of local nursing homes. But while he submitted thousands of claims seeking reimbursement for group psychological therapy sessions, in many instances, he never provided any counseling at all.

Medicare claims data show Williams submitted more than 55,000 claims for group psychological therapy. Those claims sought reimbursement for more than $2 million, for which Williams was reimbursed more than $750,000. Williams also submitted more than 40,000 Medicaid claims for group therapy, defrauding Georgia Medicaid out of more than $225,000.

An investigation of his claims by the FBI and Georgia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit demonstrated that, in many cases, Williams sought payment for services provided to beneficiaries who were deceased when he claimed to have counseled them.

In two cases, Williams' purported patients had been dead for more than a year before he claimed to have treated them in a nursing home. In addition, quite a few of the patients whom Williams billed Medicare and Medicaid for treating were hospitalized at the time he claimed they'd attended his group psychological therapy sessions.

"Dr. Williams had, for years, enjoyed a position of trust within the medical and health provider industry," Brian D. Lamkin, special agent in charge at the FBI Atlanta Field Office, said in a statement. "He chose to abandon that trust and instead displayed a level of greed that will not be tolerated."

Williams was indicted in February on 10 counts of health care fraud and pleaded guilty to two of those counts on Monday. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each count. Sentencing is scheduled for August 23, 2011.

"This case sends a strong message that Medicare and Medicaid fraud will not be tolerated in Georgia," Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said in a statement. "At a time when our state budget is heavily strained, every dollar intended for the needy must reach the recipient."
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