Doctor Pleads Guilty to Medicare Fraud Scheme

Dr. Juan Tomas Van Putten pleaded guilty on November 26, 2012 to one count of conspiracy to defraud Medicare of more than $11 million, the Justice Department has announced. Dr. Van Putten and his codefendants paid recruiters or “marketers” for referrals of Medicare patients to Van Putten’s Carson, California medical practice. Dr. Van Putten admitted that he furnished services to the recruited patients at his clinic and a nursing home, even though he knew that it was illegal for him to do so.

Some of the recruiters also worked for durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers operated by Charles Agbu and his daughter, Obiageli Agbu. Dr. Van Putten admitted that the Agbus paid him cash kickbacks to write prescriptions for expensive power wheelchairs and other DME that he knew the patients did not need. In the written orders, he exaggerated the patients’ conditions and diagnoses so that they would appear to meet Medicare’s requirements for coverage, with knowledge that the orders would be submitted to Medicare for payment. Van Putten and his co-defendants allegedly billed Medicare for $11,094,918 and received payments of about $5,789,000.

Dr. Van Putten is scheduled for sentencing on March 28, 2013. He faces up to ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The Agbus are scheduled for trial in February, 2013. Several other individuals also have been charged with alleged involvement in the conspiracy.

This prosecution is a result of an initiative by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Department of Justice Criminal Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force is part of the Healthcare Fraud Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint effort of the FBI, the HHS Office of Inspector General, and the Department of Justice that began in May, 2009. In addition to these agencies, the Internal Revenue Service, and the California Department of Justice participated in the investigation.