Court convicts wheeler dealer doc

Sunday, April 4, 2004

April 5, 2004

HOUSTON, Texas - Dr. Lewis Gottlieb, a psychiatrist, was convicted last week for his involvement in a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid of a total of $16 million by approving power wheelchairs to beneficiaries in return for kickbacks from suppliers. The conviction followed his guilty plea to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, executing a health care fraud scheme, and receiving kickback payments between October 2001 and May 2003. Gottlieb was indicted in September 2003.
United States District Judge Lee Rosenthal ordered that $1.6 million dollars held in a bank account in Gottlieb's name be forfeited to the United States. With his convictions, Gottlieb now faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison for the health care fraud conviction, 5 years imprisonment for the illegal kickback conviction and another 5 years imprisonment for the conspiracy conviction. Each offense carries a substantial fine. Sentencing is set for June 24, 2004, at 8:45 a.m.
“Every taxpayer is victimized when government programs are abused. Today's conviction is another step toward ensuring that our healthcare programs will be free from corruption and fraud,” said United States Attorney Michael Shelby.
During last week’s hearing, Gottlieb admitted that in October 2001, he was approached by an individual who offered to pay him a kickback of $85 if he would signed a CMN for a power wheelchair.
After signing that first CMN, Gottlieb was approached by DME owners and individuals, who recruited Medicare/Medicaid beneficiaries, with the same request. Gottlieb admitted to having signed hundreds of CMN's in exchange for a kickback of $200 per certificate. The majority of those beneficiaries did not qualify under Medicare/Medicaid guidelines. Gottlieb admitted that among the DMEs who paid him kickbacks for signed CMNs, were several Houston area companies.
An extensive review of claims submitted by these DME companies revealed that they fraudulently billed Medicare/Medicaid for providing power wheelchairs to beneficiaries when in fact a less expensive scooter was provided, or nothing was provided.
In addition to receiving kickbacks, Gottlieb required each Medicare/Medicaid beneficiary who was brought to his office by DME owners, or recruiters to sign a form indicating that they were in need of psychiatric services, and authorized him to bill Medicare on their behalf. Gottlieb submitted these fraudulent claims to Medicare knowing the beneficiary did not need psychiatric services. If the beneficiary refused, Gottlieb would not sign the form authorizing the power wheelchair.
The case against Gottlieb was the result of a joint investigation by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Office of the Texas Attorney General.