Northeast Times

Ambulance company charged in fraud case

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. ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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