Physicians, cardiac center agree to pay over $1M to resolve allegations they received kickbacks

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(U.S. Attorney's Office) - Three doctors and one medical practice entered into settlements with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve allegations that they referred patients for genetic testing in exchange for kickbacks from a Seattle-area testing company, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran.

The physicians, Dr. Gregory Sampognaro of Monroe, Louisiana, Dr. Warren Strickland and Dr. Isabella Strickland of Huntsville, Alabama and a cardiac center, Cardiology P.C. of Birmingham, Alabama, have agreed to pay a total of more than $1.1 million to resolve the allegations.

“Providers who line their pockets by ordering unnecessary tests increase medical costs for all of us and drain critical funds from Medicare and other government health programs,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. “The government will continue to hold accountable medical professionals who undermine our healthcare system by accepting illegal kickbacks.”

According to the settlement agreements, between 2012 and 2013 the doctors and cardiac center were alleged to have accepted payments from now-defunct testing company Natural Molecular Testing Corporation (NMTC) in return for ordering genetic tests from NMTC, which NMTC then billed to Medicare. The scheme was alleged to be in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute and the civil False Claims Act.

The providers have agreed to pay a total of more than $1.1 million. Specifically, Dr. Gregory Sampognaro will pay $519,750, Dr. Warren Strickland will pay $95,053, Dr. Isabella Strickland will pay $107,900, and Cardiology P.C. will pay $411,300 to resolve the government’s allegations. The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

“Patients, taxpayers, and Federal health care programs are all victimized when providers work in exchange for kickbacks– as the government contended in this case,” said Steven J. Ryan, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to hold such providers accountable.”

NMTC declared bankruptcy in 2013. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has an unsecured claim against NMTC for $70 million, but has little chance of recovering those funds as there are few remaining assets.

The matter was investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). The settlements were negotiated by Assistant United States Attorneys Kayla Stahman and Ashley Burns.

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