A Delaware federal judge this week ordered a Delaware MRI provider to pay $16.2 million in a whistleblower case accusing the company of submitting thousands of false Medicare claims for MRIs that were conducted without a doctor present.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware announced Jan. 29 that it had secured a default judgment on its complaint against Orthopaedic & Neuro Imaging, which operates testing facilities in Lewes, Millsboro and Seaford, and in Salisbury, Maryland.
Prosecutors said that ONI and its founder and president, Richard Pfarr, had knowingly submitted 2,225 false claims to Medicare by administering contrast dye to patients during MRI scans on patients without doctor supervision. According to the statement, Pfarr would be responsible for more than $6.1 million in civil penalties and damages.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware is committed to combating health care fraud and protecting Medicare beneficiaries using all available remedies,” Acting U.S. Attorney David C. Weiss said in a statement. “This case exemplifies the utility of the False Claims Act to deter fraudulent conduct, protect patient safety and save taxpayer dollars.”
The case was initially filed in 2013 by Robin White, who worked at ONI as an MRI technologist from 2002 to 2012. During that time, White said ONI had injected “hundreds” of patients at each of its four locations with contrast dye, which makes certain tissues easier to see on MRI scans.
The United States intervened in the case last September. In court documents, prosecutors said that ONI enrolled in Medicare in August 2002 as an independent diagnostic testing facility and started to perform MRIs on Medicare recipients that October.
Court records indicate that ONI was served with the complaint, but failed to respond by the Nov. 27 deadline.
In its motion for default judgment, prosecutors asked for three times the $1.3 million the government made on the false claims over the 10-year period, plus $12.2 million in civil damages for each violation of the False Claims Act.
U.S. District Judge Richard G. Andrews of the District of Delaware approved the request Monday in a one-page order.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that White will receive 18 percent of the total recovery for bringing the case. However, it was not initially clear how much of the $16.2 million the government would be able to collect.
An attorney for White directed inquiries regarding recovery efforts to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice declined to divulge investigation techniques used to collect on judgments, and she did not comment on how much the government was expecting to recover.
David C. Williams, who represented White, said the judgment “should serve as a warning to those who would defraud our federal programs.”
“This judgment is a tremendous result and was only possible because our client had the courage to come forward,” said Williams, a partner with Kline & Specter in Philadelphia.
Pfarr did not return a voicemail seeking comment on the case.
The suit was captioned United States v. Orthopaedic and Neuro Imaging.