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February 4, 2011

'Most Wanted'

Daily Briefing

HHS' Office of Inspector General (OIG) on Thursday posted the first-ever list of the 10 most wanted health care fugitives, Modern Healthcare reports.

Similar to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's "Ten Most Wanted" list, OIG's "Most Wanted Fugitives" list includes photos and profiles of each suspect, an online tip form, and a hotline number that individuals can use to report fugitive information in English or Spanish. The website also signals when a fugitive is captured. The program currently does not offer rewards for information leading to arrests, but an HHS official says the agency may provide them eventually.

According to federal officials, the 10 individuals on the list have cost taxpayers more than $124 million. For example, OIG's list includes Carlos, Luis and Jose Benitez, who are accused of submitting $110 million in false Medicare claims through Miami-based HIV clinics. The list also includes:

  • Susan Bendigo, a RN who ran a home health agency that billed California's Medicaid program for millions of dollars in services provided by unlicensed nurses;
  • Leonard Nwafor, a contractor who billed Medicare $1.1 million for durable medical equipment by illegally obtaining physicians' Unique Provider Identification Numbers; and
  • Dr. Steven Moos (captured in the United Arab Emirates), who prescribed numerous prescription drugs via the Internet, and ordered misbranded drugs like human growth hormone from China.

Overall, the department is seeking more than 170 fugitives charged with health care fraud.

Officials hope the new list will encourage U.S. residents to call the tip hotline. "The public has a stake in the fight against fraud, waste and abuse," Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson said (Daly, Modern Healthcare, 2/3 [subscription required]; Kennedy, Associated Press/Miami Herald, 2/3; Mosquera, Government Health IT, 2/3).

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