Long Island Doctor Indicted and Sued for Health Care Fraud
In an August 1, 2022, press release, NY Attorney General (AG) Letitia James announced that a Kings Point physician was being indicted for defrauding Medicare. Dr. Payam Toobian, MD, was charged with “third-degree larceny, third-degree health care fraud, eight counts of falsifying business records in the first degree,” and three counts of violating laws prohibiting kickbacks under the NY state Medicaid program.
The AG’s office has also filed a civil suit against Toobian and others for violating the federal and state False Claims Acts.
NY AG Investigation Reveals Doctor’s Bribery and Kickback Scheme 213
It is unclear how the AG’s office began investigating Dr. Toobian and America’s Imaging Center, Inc. America’s Imaging Center is Dr. Toobian’s corporation that operated Empire Imaging, a diagnostic radiology center in Queens, NY.
The investigation revealed that from 2006 to 2017, Toobian committed, among other things, numerous felonies, Medicare fraud, or violations of the False Claims Act by:
- Forcing patients to get unnecessary tests
- Forcing patients to get unnecessarily invasive tests and seeking reimbursement
- Telling employees at Empire Imaging to perform extra tests without the direction or approval from referring doctors
- Bribing physicians with cash, gifts, and checks to refer patients to Empire Imaging.
Some of the unnecessary tests included:
- MRIs of the brain
- MRIs of the cervical spine
- MRIs of the lumbar spine
- Orders of all these tests with injected contrast dye
Toobian allegedly ordered his employees to submit claims to Medicaid for the unnecessary, unauthorized, and invasive testing. According to the AG’s office, the referrals from the doctors involved in the bribery alone resulted in Empire Imaging receiving more than $1 million in paid claims.
The AG’s office filed criminal charges against Toobian for various felonies related to his bribery, kickback, and fraud scheme.
Doctor Being Sued for Violating the False Claims Act
The Federal False Claims Act (FCA) makes it illegal to submit false claims to the government. It also offers protection to whistleblowers who uncover, report, or try to stop fraud against the government and gives whistleblowers a way to share in the recovery of money from entities that have violated the FCA by filing a qui tam lawsuit.
The New York State FCA also gives individuals the right to file a qui tam lawsuit and share in the recovery.
Whistleblowers Can Come Forward and Report Fraud
It is unclear who, in the case of Dr. Toobian, alerted the AG to the fraudulent activities of the doctor. Often, an employee is the whistleblower who reports that false claims are being submitted to the government. Reporting fraud can be tricky, but the FCA makes retaliation for doing so illegal. An employer may not discriminate or retaliate against an employee in this situation.
The FCA also allows an individual, the whistleblower, to file a lawsuit on behalf of the government. This qui tam claim can also be an incentive to report fraud. If successful, the whistleblower can collect up to 30% of the money recovered for the government.
FCA violations are most common in health care, where doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and imaging centers see many patients receiving Medicaid. Every time that office submits a claim for reimbursement from Medicaid, it is submitting a claim to the government. Any fraudulent claim – for an unnecessary test, a patient it did not treat, or an inflated cost- can violate the FCA.
Whistleblowers: Call Alonso Krangle, LLP to Protect Your Rights
If you become aware of Medicaid fraud, call our lawyers today. We can help you understand your rights as a whistleblower under the FCA and pursue any compensation you are entitled to. Call us today at (800) 403-6191 for a free whistleblower consultation.