Sarah Powell, Class of 2023, Belmont Law.
Eight individuals have been charged by a federal grand jury with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, wire fraud, and other related charges resulting from fake medical coding contracts with Walter Reed Military Medical Center and the Defense Health Agency (DHA). Those charged in the indictment are Akbar Masood, 59; Michelle Peebles, 48; Harriet Jackson, 49; Judith Russ, 58; Rhonda Paul, 46; Wesley Williams, 47; Bagnon Jacques Titi, 44; and Alfred Antonio Duncan, 44.
Of those charged are the Chief Finance and Strategy Officer of “Company A,” a Virginia-based company that was a contractor for medical support services to both Walter Reed and DHA, and the President, Vice-President, and Chief Finance and Strategy Officer of “Company B,” another Virginia-based company that provided medical billing and coding services on government contracts. Additionally, former Walter Reed employee, Russ is facing a charge of violating federal employee ethics laws.
It is alleged that beginning in December 2016, Masood, Peebles, and Jackson established a Delaware limited liability corporation, HMA Solutions, to exploit Walter Reed’s need for contracted medical coders. According to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office Release, Masood allegedly used his authority in Company A to subcontract medical coding contacts to HMA without disclosing to other officers in Company A his affiliation with HMA. The three then used the identities of actual medical coders to assert HMA had the ability to perform the job. The U.S. Attorney’s Office further states that Masood, Peebles, and Jackson used the stolen identities to forge signatures on consulting agreements and billable hours to submit to Company A, which then submitted the hours to Walter Reed to be paid for the falsified work. Russ, the former Walter Reed employee, is alleged to have verified the billable hours and was subsequently paid by Company B and did not disclose to Walter Reed officials of the outside income he was obtaining.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office Release further alleges that Masood, Peebles, and Jackson recruited Paul, Williams, Titi, and Duncan to join the scheme and pose as coders working for Company A, although none had any experience in medical coding. It is alleged that collectively Paul, Williams, Titi, and Duncan fraudulently billed Walter Reed over $1 million for their claims alone.
In total, it is alleged that through the fraudulent scheme, the group was able to be reimbursed for $3.3 million worth of work that was never performed from 2016 to 2019. If the defendants are found guilty, they could each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office Release.