Owner Of Telemedicine Company Pleads Guilty To Health Care Fraud Conspiracy
Conspired with Owner of Tennessee Genetic Testing Laboratory, Marketing Companies, and Physicians to Defraud the United States
NASHVILLE (STL.News) A Kentucky woman pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Nashville, to conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Elizabeth Turner, 34 of Glenview, Kentucky, was charged by criminal Information in November with conspiring with Fadel Alshalabi, the owner of Crestar Labs, LLC, based in Spring Hill, Tennessee, Melissa Lynn “Lisa” Chastain, the owner of marketing company Genetix, LLC, located in Belton, South Carolina, as well as other marketers and physicians, to offer, pay, solicit and receive illegal kickbacks and to defraud the Medicare and Medicaid Programs.
Between approximately February 2018 and ending around August 2019, Turner was the owner of telemedicine company Advanced Tele-Genetic Counseling (“ATGC”), which received kickback payments from marketers in exchange for providing signed doctors’ orders for Cancer genomic (“CGx”) testing. CGx testing uses DNA sequencing to detect mutations in genes that could indicate a higher risk of developing certain types of cancers in the future. CGx testing is not a method of diagnosing whether an individual presently has cancer. The marketers targeted Medicare and Medicaid patients through door-to-door marketing, at senior citizen fairs, at nursing homes, and at other locations, and convinced patients to provide their genetic material via a mouth swab kit. The marketers then provided the swab kits to Crestar Labs for CGx testing in exchange for kickbacks paid by Crestar Labs. Crestar Labs billed Medicare and Medicaid for the tests.
Turner, through ATGC, paid kickbacks to doctors for signed orders for CGx tests, without regard for the medical necessity of the tests. Turner knew the doctors were not the patients’ treating physicians, were not treating the patients for any specific medical problem, symptom, illness, or diagnosis, and were not using the results in the care of the patients. Turner was aware that the doctors often never contacted the patients at all.
As a result of Turner’s involvement in the conspiracy, ATGC received approximately $234,730 in illegal kickback payments from marketing company co-conspirators, including Genetix, LLC. As a result of the conspiracy, Medicare and Medicaid paid laboratories, including Crestar Labs, LLC millions of dollars in reimbursements they were not entitled to receive because the CGx tests had been procured through the payment of kickbacks, and were otherwise ineligible for reimbursement.
Turner faces up to five years in prison when she is sentenced on May 2, 2022, and a fine of up to $250,000; restitution to the Medicare and Medicaid programs; and forfeiture of the ill-gotten proceeds.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of the Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah K. Bogni and Robert S. Levine are prosecuting the case.