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Bogus ambulance rides cost Medicare real money, indictment says

The operators of an ambulance service illegally charged Medicare for more than $3.6 million in rides and services that patients didn’t need, according to a federal indictment in one of a series of similar cases out of the Philadelphia area.

Anna Mudrova, owner of Penn Choice Ambulance, and operators Yury Gerasyuk, Mikhail Vasserman, Irina Vasserman, Aleksandr Vasserman, Valeriy Davydchik and Khusen Akhmedov were charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said in a statement. Other charges included making false statements, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

According to the indictment (read it here in PDF), the defendants particularly targeted dialysis patients who needed multiple trips to doctor’s offices or medical centers each week but who did not require an ambulance to get there. The defendants are accused of paying kickbacks to patients or not collecting required co-payments, and of operating unsafe ambulances without required medical gear.

In one instance, according to the indictment, the patient rode in an ambulance’s front passenger seat and smoked cigarettes during the trip.

This is just the latest case of Medicare fraud involving bogus ambulance claims in the Philadelphia area, said Patty Hartman, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

A 37-year-old woman from Philadelphia was charged last week in a similar case involving more than $2 million in improper billing. And a couple days before that, two brothers pleaded guilty to 41 counts in another case.