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Larry Bernhard, age 55, a podiatrist who operated his business from his home in Gambrills, Maryland, pleaded guilty to health care fraud and aggravated identity theft related to a scheme to fraudulently bill Medicare for more than $1.1 million.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Nicholas DiGiulio, Office of Investigations, Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services; and Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“Health insurance programs trust providers to bill honestly for medical services, so it is essential to punish doctors who betray that trust,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Dr. Larry Bernhard flagrantly ripped off Medicare Advantage by fabricating claims for services that he never provided, collecting more than $1 million in new false claims even after he was caught and prohibited from billing federal health care programs.”
According to Bernhard’s plea agreement, since 1981 he has been a licensed podiatrist in Maryland and operated a podiatry practice under the business name, Chesapeake Wound Care Center. Bernhard ran the Chesapeake Wound Care Center business from his home. On October 30, 2007, Bernhard entered into a Settlement Agreement with the government to resolve allegations that from April 1, 2002 through October 11, 2004, Bernhard submitted eighty claims to Medicare for podiatry services purportedly provided at skilled nursing facilities when, in fact, the patients were actually in hospitals at the time the services were allegedly provided. As part of the settlement Bernhard agreed to be excluded from “Medicare, Medicaid, and all other Federal health care programs” for a period of three years.
Bernhard admits that from October 31, 2007 to July 20, 2010, he fraudulently billed Medicare Advantage plans and was paid at least $1.1 million from these plans. All of the fraudulent billing occurred while Bernhard was excluded from billing all federal health care programs, including Medicare Advantage plans. Of the $1.1 million received by Bernhard , at least $1 million was for services that were not rendered. Bernhard admits that he used the names and personal identifying information of approximately 200 patients at various nursing homes to submit false bills for podiatry care that he never performed.
Bernhard faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for health care fraud and a mandatory two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, for aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar has scheduled sentencing for November 21, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. As part of his plea agreement, Bernhard has agreed to pay restitution of $1,122,992.08.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the HHS-Office of Inspector General and FBI for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney Paul E. Budlow, who is prosecuting the case.