Acupuncturist Pleads Guilty in Healthcare Fraud Scheme

by Andrew Murray | December 16th, 2019

The Department of Justice announced entry of the guilty plea on December 6, 2019. The Press Release states:

Haichao Huang pleaded guilty today to health care fraud and making false statements relating to health care matters, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson, Office of Personnel Management Office of the Inspector General Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Thomas W. South, and U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General Special Agent-in-Charge Quentin Heiden. The guilty plea was accepted by the Honorable Susan Illston, United States District Judge.

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According to the plea agreement, Huang, 46, of San Francisco, was a health care provider who offered acupuncture, physical therapy, massage, and other services to patients in and around San Francisco, Calif. Beginning no later than February 2013 and continuing through at least June 2018, Huang knowingly and willfully executed a scheme to defraud healthcare benefit programs. Huang submitted and caused to be submitted false claims for reimbursement from health care benefit programs that he knew were not properly payable, including from programs provided through federal government and labor union healthcare plans. Huang included false and inaccurate billing codes that artificially inflated both the type of service the patient received and the time he spent with the patient. The plea agreement gives examples of the ways in which Huang submitted false and inaccurate billings for reimbursement. Huang submitted requests for reimbursement for acupuncture treatment when, in fact, the patient had received much shorter periods of treatment, no acupuncture treatment, or no care of any kind at all. Huang also submitted claims for services rendered on days when patients had not been seen by him at all—including days when Huang was not in California. Further, after a patient reached the limit of acupuncture sessions allowed by the relevant insurance program or plan, Huang falsely and inaccurately billed for other types of treatments and services that were not provided, or billed under a patient’s family member’s health plan who never received treatment through his practice, in order to continue receiving improper reimbursements. 

On March 7, 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Huang with six counts of health care fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1347, and one count of false statement relating to health care matters, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1035(a)(2). Huang pleaded guilty to all seven counts.  

Pursuant to the terms of his plea agreement, Huang has agreed to pay restitution in an amount to be set by the court at the time of sentencing, but in no event less than $807,785.38. Judge Illston scheduled the sentencing hearing for March 13, 2020. In addition to restitution, the defendant faces a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison and $250,000 for each violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1347. Further, the defendant faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for the violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1035(a)(2). The court also may order additional fines and additional periods of supervised release at sentencing. However, any sentence following conviction will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

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