[Post updated June 2019] Readers of this blog know that we have long claimed that Medicare fraud is not a victimless crime. Often patients are harmed, receive substandard care or receive treatments and drugs they do not need simply so some doctor or clinic operator can bill more money to Medicare.
Obviously, these schemes also hurt taxpayers. Medicare and Medicaid are funded with tax dollars. Your money and my money. But murder?
Our story starts with Harry Crawford, the 56-year-old owner of RX Resources and Solutions (RXRS), a Baltimore, Maryland durable medical equipment supplier. RX is a big supplier of incontinence supplies.
Prosecutors established that in May of 2013, Crawford loaned his “buddy” David Wutoh $6,000. Apparently Wutoh promised a ridiculous rate of return on the money. A few months went by without payment. During one cell phone text message conversation, Wutoh texted, “Battery dying.” Crawford replied, “You will be also.”
It’s hard to read context or emotion into a text message but prosecutors were later able to determine that Crawford and an accomplice used their phones to “harass and threaten” Wutoh to repay his loans. (The accomplice also loaned money, $15,000 with a promise of $20,000 return.)
So far, this sounds like petty nonsense. A bunch of greedy men involved in some sort of loan sharking deal.
On September 22,2013, David Wutoh was shot to death in the living room of his home by an assailant who fired the shots through a front window.
Using cell phone records, prosecutors were able to determine the accomplice’s whereabouts. Cell phones constantly “ping” nearby towers allowing forensic technicians to trace a suspect’s route and whereabouts as long as his or her phone was powered up.
The accomplice, 34-year-old Matthew Hightower, was convicted earlier this fall of murder and extortion by a jury in Baltimore. Hightower was a delivery truck driver working for Crawford and RXRS.
So what happened to Crawford?
Crawford’s Medicare Fraud and Extortion Conviction
Baltimore County cops interviewed many witnesses in connection with Wutoh’s murder. As they examined cell phone records, they figured out that Wutoh had borrowed money from Hightower and Crawford. When police questioned Crawford, however, he denied the outstanding loan with Wutoh or his efforts to collect that loan.
Lying to cops may have been Crawford’s undoing.
Police and federal agents executed a search warrant on Crawford’s home in February of 2014. They found $60,000 in cash and patient records from RXRS. A similar raid of the business found “emails documenting a criminal plan at the inception of RXRS, and fraudulent delivery tickets from December 2013 and January 2014.”
From the records at Crawford’s home and the emails at the business, prosecutors and agents pieced together a massive Medicare fraud scheme involving incontinence supplies billed to Medicare but never provided to patients. The scheme cost taxpayers about $1.2 million.
Of course, like many other fraudsters (including Al Capone), Crawford didn’t pay taxes on his ill-gotten gains. And what was the money used for? Travel, mortgage payments, restaurants… the things that you and I work hard to enjoy.
Crawford pleaded guilty this week to single counts of healthcare fraud (Medicare fraud), failing to pay taxes and collection of a debt by extortionate means. He faces 35 years in prison when sentenced in March of 2017. Crawford was allowed to remain free on bail. His guilty plea came on the heels of a hung jury at trial.
The indictment facing Crawford contained 22 charges. It is not unusual for prosecutors and defendants to agree to a plea deal instead of facing another long trial. Crawford pleaded to just 3 charges instead of facing many more at a retrial.
There were lots of twists and turn in this case and it isn’t over. The delivery driver, Hightower, is still facing Medicare fraud charges and a second accomplice is still awaiting trial. Elma Myles, the RXRS billing clerk, is also charged with Medicare fraud.
We wrote this post in November 2016. That was just after Crawford was reindicted on new charges of extortion and loan sharking. Unlike healthcare fraud, federal law considers these crimes of violence.
At a detention hearing in late 2016, Crawford, who had been released on bail, was remanded into custody. The court changed its mind and decided that he was a danger to the community.
Ultimately Crawford pleaded guilty to three counts and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Not happy with his prison sentence, he appealed. In early 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals in a one paragraph order said that Crawford had waived his right to appeal as part of his plea deal. In October of 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take a further appeal.
Government Pays Awards for Medicare Fraud Information
Most Medicare fraud cases come to light when an employee or concerned “insider” blows the whistle on fraud. This case obviously is the outlier. If what prosecutors say is true, it appears that all the insiders had their hand in proverbial cookie jar and were stealing from taxpayers. Whether all were involved in the murder we will probably never know. Only Hightower was convicted for his role in the death.
Billing clerks, delivery drivers, nurses, doctors, even patients… anyone can be a whistleblower if they have inside information involving misuse of tax dollars. Under the federal False Claims Act, the Justice Department and courts can pay awards of up to 30% of whatever the government collects from wrongdoers. Million dollar awards are common.
If you have inside information about Medicare or Medicaid fraud, give us a call. We will help you determine if you have a case and can investigate and file the required lawsuits to collect an award. We don’t charge any fees unless we recover money for you and our services are always confidential.
Worried about retaliation? Whistleblower retaliation is illegal. We can also help you collect damages should you be wrongfully demoted or terminated.
For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 704-6731 (direct). You can also visit our Medicare fraud information page. All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege. To date, our whistleblower clients have received more than $100 million in awards.
MahanyLaw – America’s Medicare Fraud Whistleblower Lawyers