A federal grand jury has indicted seven Philadelphia residents for using a Far Northeast ambulance company to bill the nation’s Medicare program for more than $3.6 million in unnecessary and ineligible patient transportation services.
According to a 31-count indictment announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on April 10, the operators of Penn Choice Ambulance allegedly provided transportation services to patients who could walk or were otherwise ineligible for ambulance coverage by Medicare.
The company then falsified benefit claim forms, stating that the patients were bedridden or that ambulance transportation was medically necessary. Medicare suffered a loss of more than $1.5 million in the scheme, according to the indictment.
Authorities identified the defendants as Penn Choice owner Anna Mudrova, 40; Murdova’s husband, Yury Gerasyuk, 41; Mikhail Vasserman, 50; Vasserman’s wife, Irina Vasserman, 50; Aleksander Vasserman, 29; Valeriy Davydchik, 58; and Khusen Akhmedov, 22. All are Philadelphia residents. Authorities did not provide their home addresses, but a forfeiture notice identified a vehicle that was registered to Irina Vasserman at an apartment on the 800 block of Red Lion Road.
Penn Choice is listed as a corporate defendant. The business is incorporated at a residential address on the 9300 block of Neil Road in Somerton and operated out of a commercial property on the 3000 block of Franks Road in nearby Huntingdon Valley. The business is operated from a second site in Camp Hill near Harrisburg.
Penn Choice obtained a Medicare provider number in September 2009 and continued to submit claims until last January. The indictment claims that the company’s operators recruited dialysis patients for transportation because they usually require treatments several times per week. The defendants allegedly paid cash kickbacks of $100 to $500 to patients to ensure their use of Penn Choice.
In some cases, patients were carried from their homes on stretchers, although they were able to walk.
In other instances, patients simply walked from their homes into the ambulance and rode in a seat rather than lying down, the indictment stated. On one trip, a patient rode in the front seat of an ambulance and smoked cigarettes during the trip. Other times, multiple patients rode at the same time, but the company billed Medicare for separate trips.
Penn Choice operated five ambulances, some of which failed to pass state inspections because they lacked the proper medical equipment, according to the charging document.
The charges include one count of conspiracy, 15 counts of making false health-care statements, five counts of aggravated identity theft, six counts of making kickback payments, three counts of money laundering and one count of aiding and abetting.
If convicted, the defendants face “substantial terms of imprisonment and fines,” as well as restitution and other sanctions, the U.S. Attorney said. ••