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24 Charged In Medical Supply Phone Scam Costing Medicare $1.2 Billion

CHICAGO (CBS) -- In one of the largest Medicare fraud busts in U.S. history more than $1.2 billion in taxes was wasted.

It's a scheme that CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman first exposed last fall.


The scam involved peddling unneeded medical braces.

"Some of these individuals are fraudsters. They ask for your Medicare number or other personal information," said U.S. Health and Human Services Deputy Inspector General Gary Cantrell. "They will then send you medical equipment you do not need, while billing Medicare in your name."

The U.S. Department of Justice announced action Tuesday against 24 people involved with five telemedicine companies and 130 medical equipment companies for billing Medicare for the more than $1.2 billion in unnecessary medical equipment such as braces.

The 2 Investigators first exposed this growing scheme last fall.

"Right now, currently, the medical supplies phone scams are the biggest ones across the state and across the country," said Travis Trumitch of Age Options

The scam snagged Donald after he received a call similar to this one: "you may qualify for a knee or back brace at little or no cost to you."

"I rattled off my Social Security number, and then I realized, 'Oops, I shouldn't have done that,'" he said.

Medicare paid more than $3,000 in taxpayer dollars for five braces that he didn't need and never ordered.

The feds say offshore call centers contact Medicare patients and get their personal information. They then have a "phone consultation" with a doctor who orders prescriptions for the braces. A medical equipment company fulfils the order and bills Medicare, sending a kickback to the original conspirators.

Mabel Fowler received 10 braces. Medicare paid more than $4,000 in taxpayer money for the unnecessary devices.

Both Donald's and Mabel's cases are now part of the nationwide federal investigation.

"I feel violated," Donald said. "I would have the same feeling I felt when I was robbed once."

It's unclear if any of those charged are from Illinois, but the investigation continues.

If you think you may have been victim to this, calll 1-800-MEDICARE (633-4227) to report the incident. 



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