US Obtains a $16.2 Million Judgment for MRI provider’s False Claims Act Violations
Richard Pfarr and the Orthopedic and Neuro Imaging LLC (ONI) he owns were held liable in the U.S. District Court in Delaware for having submitted fraudulent claims to Medicare. The Court granted the United States’ request for a default judgment against ONI and Pfarr. In its complaint, it said ONI knowingly submitted false claims to Medicare by administering contrast dye during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans on patients without proper supervision by a physician. Contrast dye is a chemical injected into the body to make certain tissues more clearly visible on an MRI.
“This case exemplifies the utility of the False Claims Act to deter fraudulent conduct, protect patient safety, and save taxpayer dollars,” said Acting U.S. Attorney David C. Weiss. ONI operates independent diagnostic testing facilities (IDTFs) in Delaware and Maryland. The lawsuit contended that ONI injected dyes into 1,700 Medicare patients from 2003 to 2014 without direct supervision by a physician. The suits said ONI received more than $1 million from Medicare for scans, images and tests.
The government’s case took off from a whistleblower’s lawsuit filed by Robin White in 2013. A former employee of ONI. White filed the suit under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act (FCA). It permits private parties to sue on behalf of the United States for false claims on government funds, and to receive a share of any recovery. The private plaintiff relates the case to the governments interest and is referred to as a relator. The False Claims Act permits the government to intervene in such a lawsuit, as the government did in ONI’s case. Ms. White will receive a whistleblower award of 18 percent of the recovered funds, if any. Whistleblower awards could be in the tens of millions and are judged on a multitude of factors including cooperation of the whistleblower, and their utility in the investigation. Commencing a qui tam action requires the use of a whistleblower lawyer.
The US government intervened in the False Claims Act lawsuit September last year. The matter was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer L. Hall and Laura Hatcher handled the case on behalf of the United States.
The case is captioned United States ex rel. White v. Orthopaedic and Neuro Imaging LLC, No. 13-1109-RGA.