'They kicked my teeth out'

Friday, May 31, 2002

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Almost a year to the day that Scott Vogelsang appeared on the cover on an industry publication next to the headline "When is Fraud Okay?" the U.S. government charged the DME provider with healthcare fraud.

"Here I am telling them what kind of problems they have internally (in the Dealer Provider article), and they turn around and kick my teeth out," Vogelsang told HME News last month. "I should have stayed in engineering."

In April, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Vogelsang, 39, with perpetrating an elaborate scheme (See sidebar, page 29) that involved double billing Medicare and Medicaid between Aug. 22, 1996, through April 2002 to the tune of $120,000. All of the 19 claims in question relate to high-end rehab equipment (scooters and power wheelchairs).

Vogelsang faces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, and a $250,000 fine and a $100 special assessment if convicted, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Linhardt.

Vogelsang appeared on the cover of Dealer Provider magazine in April 2001 and contributed a commentary in that issue on dishonest beneficiaries. He doesn't blame beneficiaries for his current problems, but he does offer a defense.

Vogelsang admits that Specs Rehabilitation may have made some billing errors, given the complicated crossover system between Medicare and Medi-Cal. But he blames the charges in part on a disgruntled former employee who turned whistleblower to protect herself.

"She did some things she shouldn't have, civil and criminal," Vogelsang said. "Now we have to wait for this stuff to be over before we can go after her. I've also been told that what I'm going through has to do with a former employee and a dead doctor, but I don't know all the details about that."

Vogelsang started his business in 1985 as a repair shop and eventually added DME and rehab. Since the fraud charges hit, Specs' reimbursement has dried up and he's had to close his Yuma City location. Business isn't much better at his Sacramento location: It has dropped off so much that he can't afford an attorney and has been appointed a public defender.

Ultimately, Vogelsang said there's a good chance that he'll get the charges against him reduced, but it may not matter.

"What I think is going to happen is that they are going to wear us out so bad financially that there will be nothing left but a shell," he said. "I think I'll be lucky to walk away with nothing." HME