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Health

Atlanta Tax Consultant Guilty Of Defrauding The Kentucky Department Of Revenue And Signature Healthcare

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – An Atlanta, Georgia tax consultant pleaded guilty in United States District Court this week, before United States Magistrate Judge Colin H. Lindsay, to mail fraud and money laundering for devising a scheme to defraud the Kentucky Department of Revenue and his client Signature Healthcare, announced United States Attorney John E. Kuhn, Jr.

Todd Griffin, 46, was a tax credit consultant for a company located in Atlanta, Georgia. Between April of 2013, and June of 2014, Griffin fraudulently obtained $499,320 in state tax credits for his client Signature Healthcare (SHC) from the Kentucky Department of Revenue (KDOR). In return for securing the fraudulent tax credits, SHC compensated Griffin with commissions totaling $46,155. Griffin admits that he attempted to conceal his fraud from SHC, to continue to receive their commission and business, by making payments totaling $242,939.92 to KDOR, from his employer’s bank account, using funds derived from the scheme.

According to the plea agreement, Griffin submitted fraudulent documents to SHC to make it appear that the KDOR had approved certifications for eligibility for a tax credit program. Griffin then obtained state tax credits based on the fraudulent documents. The KDOR disallowed the credits and contacted Griffin, who had power of attorney for SHC and paid the disallowed tax credits in order to conceal the fraud.

According to the terms of the plea agreement, Griffin will pay restitution of $46,155 to SHC. At sentencing, the United States will recommend a sentence of 27-33 months in prison. Sentencing is scheduled before Chief Judge Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., on October 2, 2017 in Louisville.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Josh Judd and is being investigated by the Kentucky Department of Revenue, Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, Internal Revenue Service, Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Mayor Bowser Highlights Administration’s Efforts to Prevent New Cases of HIV

2016 was the 9th Consecutive Year of Decreases in New HIV Cases

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, on National HIV Testing Day, Mayor Bowser released the District’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and TB Administration (HAHSTA) annual report and highlighted DC’s progress toward ending the HIV epidemic in Washington, DC. The report shows that for the ninth year in a row, the number of newly diagnosed HIV cases in Washington, DC decreased. The Mayor was joined at the release by the Director of the Department of Health LaQuandra Nesbitt, Executive Director of Whitman-Walker Health Don Blanchon, and community members.
“For nine consecutive years, the District has been able to work together with the community to decrease the number of new HIV cases. We know we have more work to do, but this data is good news for our city and our residents,” said Mayor Bowser. “In just one decade, we have made tremendous progress, and today, our residents who are diagnosed with HIV are getting care faster and they are starting – and staying on – treatments that we know are effective.”

In 2016, the number of newly diagnosed HIV cases in Washington, DC decreased to 347, a 52 percent decrease from 720 cases in 2011 and a 73 percent decrease from 1,333 cases in 2007. In just under a decade, the number of newly diagnosed HIV cases attributable to injection drug use decreased by 95 percent from 149 cases in 2007, prior to the scale up of DC’s needle exchange program, to 7 cases in 2016. Currently, 12,964 DC residents or 1.9 percent of the population is living with HIV.

The Mayor also joined community members and District health experts in supporting a consensus statement around an evidence-based approach to interrupting HIV transmission called “treatment as prevention.” To support the approach, the District will participate in the online campaign #UequalsU, which stands for “undetectable equals untransmittable.” #UequalsU is a worldwide effort led by the U.S.-based Prevention Access Campaign to promote Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). The campaign is based on evidence that the risk of transmission for a person with HIV who is on ART and achieves an undetectable viral load in their blood for at least six months is negligible to non-existent. The evidence comes out of a National Institute of Health-funded study known as HPTN 052 that examined participants at 13 sites in nine countries.

“Spreading the word about the success of HIV treatment is one way to encourage our residents with the virus to stay on their medications,” said Dr. Nesbitt. “Our HIV positive residents now have the same opportunity as anyone else to live full and healthy lives, and they play a critical role in ending this epidemic once and for all.”

In December, Mayor Bowser released the 90/90/90/50 plan, the District’s plan for ending the HIV epidemic in Washington, DC by 2020.
The full HAHSTA Annual Report can be found at doh.dc.gov/publication/ 2017-hahsta-annual-reports.


HEALTH ADVISORY INFORMATION

Summer is here and the District of Columbia Department of Health (DOH) reminds residents of how to stay healthy during this period of high temperatures. The hot and humid conditions can cause many medical problems such as heat exhaustion and stroke; residents are advised to take caution when outdoors. If you suspect that you or someone you know is experiencing a heat related illness, please call 911.

DOH Tips for Staying Healthy and Cool in the Heat:
• Drink plenty of water
• Stay out of the sun
• Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol, and large amounts of sugar
• Wear clothing that is loose-fitting, light colored and breathable, such as cotton
• Dress infants and children in cool, loose clothing and shade their heads and faces with hats or an umbrella
• Limit sun exposure during mid-day hours and in places of potential severe exposure such as beaches
• Wear sunscreen
• Schedule outdoor activities carefully
• Do not leave infants, children, or pets in a parked car
• Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets, and leave the water in a shady area
• If you do not have access to a cool-temperature location, visit the District recreation center, library, or senior center closest to you

It is important for residents to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and stroke, as well as be aware of the various ways to avoid heat-related illnesses.

Heat stroke is a serious illness characterized by a body temperature greater than 105 degrees. Symptoms may include dry red skin, convulsions, throbbing headaches, disorientation, chills, delirium and coma. Onset of heat stroke can be rapid: a person can go from feeling apparently well to a seriously ill condition within minutes. Treatment of heat stroke involves the rapid lowering of body temperature, using a cool bath or wet towels. This is a true medical emergency, call 911.

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat stroke that may develop due to a combination of several days with high temperatures and dehydration in an individual. Signs of heat exhaustion include extreme weakness, muscle cramps, nausea, or headache, heavy sweating, paleness and dizziness. Heat exhaustion is treated with plenty of liquids and rest in a cool, shaded area. Those on a low-sodium diet or with other health problems should contact a doctor.

Children and Pets
• Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open.
• To remind yourself that a child is in the car, keep a stuffed animal in the car. When the child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in the front with the driver.
• When leaving your car, check to be sure everyone is out of the car. Be careful not to overlook any children who have fallen asleep in the car.

Groups at Greatest Risk for Heat-related Illness:
• Infants
• Children up to four years of age
• People 65 years of age and older
• People who are overweight
• People who are ill or on certain medications

Groups at greatest risk should be monitored carefully, and their environments should be regulated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults at greatest risk be closely monitored and visited at least twice a day to view for possible signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children should also be closely monitored.
For more information on heat-related illness prevention, visit http://www.cdc.gov/Features/ ExtremeHeat/index.html


Detroit Area Medical Biller Sentenced to 50 Months in Prison for Her Role in a $7.3 Million Dollar Healthcare Fraud Scheme

A Detroit-area medical biller was sentenced today to 50 months in prison for her role in a $7.3 million Medicare and Medicaid fraud scheme involving medical services that were billed to Medicare and Medicaid but not rendered as billed.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel L. Lemisch of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios of the FBI’s Detroit Division, and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office, made the announcement.

Dawn Bentley, 56, of Oakland County, Michigan, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sean F. Cox of the Eastern District of Michigan, who also ordered Bentley to pay $3,253,107 in restitution jointly and severally with her co-defendants. After a one-week jury trial in January 2017, Bentley was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud, as well as one count of mail fraud. Bentley was sentenced to 50 months in prison on each of the two counts, to run concurrently, followed by one year of supervised release.

According to the evidence presented at trial, from June 2014 through June 2015, Bentley knowingly submitted fraudulent bills on behalf of a co-conspirator physician for services she knew could not have been rendered, and for services she knew had not been rendered as billed. In exchange, Bentley was paid 6% of the total billings paid to the physician from Medicare, the evidence showed. Bentley’s largest client was Waseem Alam, who pleaded guilty to a $33 million Medicare fraud scheme in March 2016. Bentley billed $1.9 million of this fraud from June 2014 to June 2015, and was paid 6% of Alam’s receipts for the fraudulent billings, the evidence showed. Bentley’s company received over $100,000 from Alam’s practices between June 2014 and June 2015, the evidence showed.

The FBI and HHS-OIG investigated the case, which was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. Fraud Section Trial Attorneys Tom Tynan and Jessica Collins prosecuted the case.

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 3,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $11 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.


USDA Offers Food Safety Tips for Areas Affected by Hurricane Florence

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2018 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing food safety recommendations for those who may be impacted by Hurricane Florence.

The National Hurricane Center expects impacts from Hurricane Florence along the coastal southeastern U.S. into the mid-Atlantic region. According to the National Hurricane Center, flooding, hurricane force winds and storm surge are likely in portions of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Everyone in the path of the storm should closely monitor the progress of Florence, ensure they have their hurricane plan in place, and follow any advice given by local officials.

Hurricanes present the possibility of power outages and flooding that can compromise the safety of stored food. Residents in the path of this storm should pay close attention to the forecast. FSIS recommends that consumers take the following steps to reduce food waste and the risk of foodborne illness during this and other severe weather events.

Steps to follow in advance of losing power:

  • Keep appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40°F or lower in the refrigerator, 0°F or lower in the freezer.
  • Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers prior to a storm. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold. Remember, water expands when it freezes, so don’t overfill the containers.
  • Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately—this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Know where you can get dry ice or block ice.
  • Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours.
  • Group foods together in the freezer—this ‘igloo’ effect helps the food stay cold longer.
  • Keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling. 

Steps to follow if the power goes out:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if the door is kept closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
  • Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross contamination of thawing juices.
  • Use dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible during an extended power outage. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days. 

Food safety after a flood:

  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water—this would include raw fruits and vegetables, cartons of milk or eggs.
  • Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those packaged in plastic wrap or cardboard, or those with screw?caps, snap lids, pull tops and crimped caps. Flood waters can enter into any of these containers and contaminate the food inside. Also, discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home-canned foods if they have come in contact with flood water, because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.
  • Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel?type can opener. 

Steps to follow after a weather emergency:

  • Check the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.
  • Check each item separately. Throw out any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture or feels warm to the touch.
  • Check frozen food for ice crystals. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40°F or below.
  • Never taste a food to decide if it’s safe.
  • When in doubt, throw it out.