Brooklyn Doctor Convicted in $77M Medicare fraud scheme
Gustave Drivas, M.D., a Staten Island resident who owned a medical clinic in Brooklyn, was convicted Tuesday of two felony counts for his role in a $77 million Medicare fraud scheme.
The jury’s verdict followed an eight-week-long trial in United States District Court in Brooklyn before the Hon, Nina Gershon. The conviction was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York; and Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice.
The evidence at trial showed that Drivas authorized his co-conspirators at the clinic to use his Medicare billing number to charge Medicare for more than $20 million in medical procedures and services that were never performed.
In return, he received more than $500,000 for his role in the scheme.
The evidence established that Drivas was a “no show” doctor who almost never visited the clinic. The evidence also showed that the medical clinic paid cash kickbacks to Medicare beneficiaries and used the beneficiaries’ names to bill Medicare for more than $77 million in services that were medically unnecessary and never provided.
The government’s investigation included the use of a court-ordered audio/video recording device hidden in a room at the clinic. The conspirators were recorded paying approximately $500,000 in cash kickbacks during a period of approximately six weeks from April to June 2010. This room was marked “PRIVATE” and featured a Soviet-era poster of a woman with a finger to her lips and the words “Don’t Gossip” in Russian.
To generate the large amounts of cash needed to pay the patients, the owners and operators of the clinic wrote clinic checks to numerous shell companies that were controlled by money launderers.
Two of the money launderers, Anatoly Kraiter and Larisa Shelabadova, pleaded guilty prior to trial. Irina Shelikhova and her son Maksim Shelikhov, who directed the money laundering operation from inside the clinic, also pleaded guilty prior to trial to conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Drivas was convicted today of health care fraud conspiracy and health care fraud. At sentencing before U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon of the Eastern District of New York, scheduled for July 9, Drivas faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
“Gustave Drivas sold his license and his ethics for cold, hard cash, and was the linchpin in a scheme that defrauded the Medicare system of millions. Medicare fraud weakens a vitally important program which millions of our citizens rely upon. We will continue to be vigilant in bringing those who seek to steal from Medicare to justice,” stated U.S. Attorney Lynch.
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