Media watch

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

See ya later: DME scam artist gets seven years in the slammer
TAMPA, Fla. — For getting caught at one of the largest Medicare fraud schemes in Central Florida’s history, former DME dealer Barry Douglas Haught gets to spend the next seven years in jail.

The 49-year-old defrauded the federal government out of $14.5 million by allegedly sending fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid in connection with the sale of DME. He then laundered the proceeds though through bank accounts of co-conspirators and into offshore banks, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

During his sentencing last month, Haught tearfully begged a Federal District Judge James Whittemore for probation so he could see his infant grandson take his first steps, the Tampa Tribune reported.

The plea didn’t hold water with Whittemore, who said Haught should have thought of that before he got mixed up in the scheme.

“Greed, arrogance, callous indifference to the laws of this country and our moral standards is how I’d describe the conduct,” said Whittemore. “You call them mistakes. I call them fraud, extensive fraud. Mistakes don’t begin to reflect what you have done in this case.”

From 1993 to 1998, Haught controlled a group of businesses, called the Gold Star Companies, from an office on Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. The companies conned elderly and sick people into ordering equipment they didn’t need — from power wheelchairs to pressure mattresses — billing the government for the costs.

Haught and his employees also paid kickbacks to potential customers to get their Medicare numbers, and they forged doctors’ signatures. After Haught’s businesses were closed by a federal judge and his assets were seized, Haught schemed to continue the fraud, laundering money through offshore accounts.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Zitek told Whittemore that Haught “was an organizer and leader of this crime.” He said this was “the largest Medicare Part B fraud that I’m aware of in the history of the Middle District of Florida.” HME