Patrick Lynch, 54, who masqueraded as an doctor with an Ocean County, N.J., practice, pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of health-care fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft in an elaborate scheme to defraud Medicare.
Lynch, via his Toms River-based Visiting Doctors of New Jersey, visited hundreds elderly, home-bound patients and billed Medicare for the bogus and potentially dangerous treatments."Patrick Lynch defrauded a government program designed to help Americans most in need of health support," U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said in a statement.
"To further his deception, he misused the identities of skilled professionals and put elderly patients at risk," Fishman added. "Homebound individuals with pressing medical concerns should not have to worry that they are receiving substandard care from untrained hands."
According to court documents, Lynch created Visiting Doctors of New Jersey to provide medical care for elderly home-bound patients in the Monmouth and Ocean County areas. Since Lynch was neither a licensed physician nor a nurse practitioner, he hired licensed individuals to visit patients on behalf of his organization.
These doctors and nurse practitioners, however, quit when Lynch failed to pay their salaries. Lynch then kept his business afloat by posing as several of his former employees, using their names and government-issued identification numbers to write prescriptions and submit bills to Medicare.
"The threat to the public well being in this case is considerable," said Michael B. Ward, special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark field office, said in a statement.
"Without sufficient training and lacking minimal credentials, Patrick Lynch attempted to profit by presenting himself as a licensed medical professional, conducting home health-care visits with elderly patients, writing prescriptions, and falsely billing Medicare," Ward added. "His actions placed these unsuspecting patients at undeterminable risk."
The health-care fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gain or loss from the offense.
The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison, which will run consecutively with any sentence imposed for the health-care fraud charge.
The amount of money Lynch will be required to pay in compensation will be decided at sentencing, which is scheduled for October of this year.
A Miami psychiatrist recently pleaded guilty for his role in a $200 million Medicare scam, and a Detroit clinic owner was fined more than $1 million and sentenced to 15 months in prison for defrauding Medicare.