New Jersey physician charged in $1.2B fraud scheme pleads guilty

A New Jersey physician implicated in a component of a $1.2 billion Medicare fraud pleaded guilty to criminal charges Sept. 12, according to the Department of Justice.

Joseph DeCorso, MD, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. As part of his guilty plea, Dr. DeCorso admitted he wrote medically unnecessary orders for orthotic braces for Medicare beneficiaries while working for two telemedicine companies between July 2017 and March 2019.

Lester Stockett, the owner and CEO of the telemedicine companies, recently pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and pay and receive healthcare kickbacks, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Dr. DeCorso and Mr. Stockett were among 24 defendants charged in April for their alleged roles in the $1.2 billion scam. Dr. DeCorso's conduct resulted in a $13 million loss to Medicare, while Mr. Stockett caused a $424 million loss, according to the Justice Department.

According to federal prosecutors, the complex scheme began with telemarketers calling Medicare beneficiaries and getting them to accept free or low-cost durable medical equipment braces, regardless of medical necessity. The call centers would transfer Medicare beneficiaries to telemedicine companies for consultations with physicians, who allegedly prescribed the orthopedic braces to patients whom they had never met. The call centers would sell the prescriptions to durable medical equipment companies, which shipped the braces to beneficiaries, billed Medicare and paid kickbacks to physicians.

As part of his plea agreement, Dr. DeCorso agreed to pay the federal government $7 million in restitution and forfeit certain assets and property tied to the conspiracy. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 8, 2020.

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