Victor Lipkin will spend the next five years in prison. After pleading guilty to Medicare fraud last August, Lipkin was sentenced earlier this month by U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Adams to 60 months in prison. His lawyers sought a 3 year sentence.
Lipkin’s story echoes many others we have seen lately. Profits over patients. While we have no tolerance for medical providers that rip off Medicare and Medicaid, we have zero compassion and understanding for those that harm patients. They are monsters. According to court records, Lipkin falls into the latter category.
Lipkin’s Medicare Fraud
According to Manhattan’s U.S. Attorney,
“[Lipkin] was a primary participant in a massive conspiracy to defraud Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance companies. The scheme operated out of three purported medical clinics – the Avenue V Clinic in Brooklyn, New York (the “Avenue V Clinic”) and two other purported clinics in Queens, New York (the “Hillside Clinic” and the “Elmhurst Clinic”). Each of the clinics was – on paper – listed in the name of a particular doctor (the “Doctor”). While the scheme was fraudulent in numerous ways, the primary fraud involved scheme members recruiting and paying kickbacks to “patients” to take medically unnecessary tests and then billing the health insurance providers for those unnecessary tests.”
The three clinics at issue in the scheme billed almost $70 million in just 4 years before getting caught. Insurance companies were billed as if the patients saw a physician. They often did not, however. In fact, the government says that often there was not even a doctor on the premises.
Although a doctor wasn’t present, they paid one essentially to use his license. That doctor, in turn, got kickbacks for the patients he never saw!
To keep the scheme going, prosecutors say that Lipkin and his co-conspirators paid financially disadvantaged people to be the patients. The patients were often recruited at nearby soup kitchens and bussed to the clinics.
If the scheme ended right there, it would already be bad. But it gets worse. Much worse.
Justice Department officials say that some of the patients were given tests, tests that they didn’t need and that were not medically necessary. Tests that involved injecting the patients with dangerous radioactive dyes.
Lipkin Seeks Leniency
There are two sides to every story, although Lipkin’s claims defy reality.
Lipkin told the court that he intended that his clinic “would provide for a variety of medical needs associated with cardiology… with exclusive, expensive and the latest of the art developed medical equipment administered only by the best Board Certified physicians…”
Apparently, a no show doc that takes kickbacks represents the “best physicians” available.
Lipkin admitted the kickbacks but said that they were minor. In a few instances he “oversaw the payment” of nominal amounts to patients who “demanded a cash kickback” for attending his clinic.
As a former prosecutor, I know that judges have sympathy for defendants who plead guilty, show remorse and accept responsibility for their actions. Lipkin’s sentencing arguments show no acceptance of responsibility. Instead he minimizes his own involvement and blames the patients!
His plea for mercy doesn’t stop with his blame on the patients. He apparently blames the former Soviet Army as well! In his lawyers words, Lipkin immigrated to the US from the Soviet Union when he was 25. “His was the character and psychology shaped by the tyrannical Soviet Army particularly to its’ Jews…”
In fact, his upbringing in the USSR made him perceive that his actions were not “terribly wrong” and were the “ordinary course of business”.
I suspect that during his younger days in the former Soviet Union, stealing millions from the government would not be “ordinary” and would be perceived as “terribly wrong.” He got a much better deal in our courts than he would have in the USSR.
Patients, the Soviets and… Mom!
In a desperate 11th hour move, Lipkin even argued that “removing him from his mother” could cause her “premature expiration.”
It’s easy to mock and ridicule those whose stupid actions landed them in prison. Even the prosecutors acknowledged that Lipkin’s clinic was better than the other two involved in the conspiracy. Lipkin may have provided some real benefits to some patients. And not every patient was fake.
Injecting radioactive dye into patients when there was no medical reason, however, put his patients in harm’s way. And for that there can be no excuse.
Judge Adams agreed with prosecutors and sentenced Lipkin to 60 months. When he is released he will be on probation and must pay back $8 million.
All the other participants in the scheme have also pleaded guilty. They include Vadim Zubkov, Nikoloz Chochiev, Anatoliy Fatakhov, Mariana Swaffar, Jacqueline Pinez, Jonathan Oliver, Giorgi Buleishvili and Eduard Zavalunov.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “Victor Lipkin spearheaded a scheme that involved recruiting disadvantaged and homeless people to undergo expensive and unnecessary medical tests. Lipkin and his co-defendants submitted over $70 million in bogus claims to Medicare and Medicaid, burdening those programs while enriching themselves.”
Whistleblower Awards for Medicare Fraud
Medicare and Medicaid are financed by taxpayers. When someone steals from Medicare, they steal from everyone.
The False Claims Act allows people with inside information about Medicare fraud to receive large cash awards for their cooperation and assistance. Awards are between 15% and 30% of what the government collects from wrongdoers. Many states have similar award programs for Medicaid fraud. (Medicaid relies in part on state tax dollars.)
Calling a Medicare fraud hotline won’t get you an award. There is only one way to get a big cash award. And that is by filing a sealed complaint in court.
The hardest part of the equation is making the decision to step forward and take a stand against fraud, greed and patient abuse. Once you make that decision, we can handle the rest.
Our trained and experienced whistleblower lawyers will investigate the case, file the complaint, advance all costs and fees and assist with the prosecution. In some cases we may even handle the prosecution through trial.
Unless we win and you receive an award, you owe us nothing.
Why choose MahanyLaw? Our Medicare fraud team is headed by a former prosecutor and street cop. We know how to investigate these cases and package them exactly the way the government likes. And we are successful. In the last few years we have collected over $100 million in awards for clients. These are numbers on paper, these are actual recoveries.
If you have inside information about Medicare fraud, call us. For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by phone at (414) 704-6731 (direct). You can also visit our Medicare fraud whistleblower page.
All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege.