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Federal agents sweep 5 cities in takedown for Medicare fraud

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • 94 people across the United States are charged with defrauding Medicare
  • They are charged with conspiring to defraud Medicare of more than $280 million
  • Charges include filing fraudulent claims for HIV/infusion services and home health care
  • Medicare is a federal health care program designed to help the elderly

New York (CNN) -- Federal agents charged 94 people in five cities Friday with defrauding Medicare, the Department of Justice and other federal agencies said in a joint statement.

It is the largest health care fraud takedown since the creation of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force three years ago. The defendants include doctors, health care company owners and executives, the statement said.

"Today's arrests send a strong message that attempts to defraud Medicare will not be tolerated," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "With the help of new tools in the Affordable Care Act, including stiffer penalties and better information sharing, we will continue to work with our federal, state and local partners to stamp out Medicare fraud and protect beneficiaries and the American taxpayer."

The defendants are charged with conspiring to submit over $280 million in false claims to the federal health care program designed to aid the elderly.

Thirty-six defendants charged in the schemes have been arrested in Miami, Florida; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Detroit, Michigan, and the Brooklyn borough of New York, and additional arrests are expected throughout the day, federal officials said.

Charges include filing fraudulent claims for HIV/infusion services, home health care, physical therapy and durable medical equipment.

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force is a joint effort by the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services. The team works with federal, state and local investigators to analyze Medicare data and emphasizes community policing.

"With today's arrests, we're putting would-be criminals on notice: Health care fraud is no longer a safe bet," Attorney General Eric Holder said. "The federal government is working aggressively -- and collaboratively -- to pursue health care criminals around the country and to bring these offenders to justice."

CNN's Allan Chernoff and Sheila Steffen contributed to this report