Doctor Pleads Guilty to Billing Medicare and Medicaid for Counseling Sessions with Dead Patients

ATLANTA—ROBERT WILLIAMS, 72, of Atlanta, Georgia, pleaded guilty today in federal district court on two counts of health care fraud as part of a scheme to bill for group psychological therapy that WILLIAMS never provided.

United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “With so many elderly citizens and others who need specialized psychological care, this defendant ignored his duty as a doctor and became a billing machine who claimed to treat patients who were in fact dead. This blatant attempt to rip off the system took funds and care away from real live patients with real problems. Medicare and Medicaid need all the money they can get for legitimate patient care and this physician will get none of that money.”

“This case sends a strong message that Medicare and Medicaid fraud will not be tolerated in Georgia,” said Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens. “At a time when our state budget is heavily strained, every dollar intended for the needy must reach the recipient. We will continue to work with our partners, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the FBI, to weed out fraud in Georgia.”

Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, said, “Dr. Williams had for years, enjoyed a position of trust within the medical and health provider industry. He chose to abandon that trust and instead displayed a level of greed that will not be tolerated. Medicare fraud should be promptly reported to the nearest FBI field office so that the much needed federal health care benefits will be there for those individuals who truly need them.”

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court: WILLIAMS was a licensed physician, practicing in the Atlanta area. From approximately July 2007 through October 2009, he contracted with a medical services company to provide group psychological therapy to nursing home patients in a variety of nursing homes. Under his signature, thousands of claims were submitted to Medicare and Georgia Medicaid seeking reimbursement for group psychological therapy that WILLIAMS purportedly provided to beneficiaries at several nursing homes in the Atlanta area. In many instances, however, WILLIAMS did not actually provide the therapy.

Specifically, from July 2007 through October 2009, Medicare claims data indicated that over 55,000 claims were submitted using WILLIAMS’ provider number for group psychological therapy. Those claims sought reimbursement for over $2,000,000, and ultimately caused Medicare to reimburse WILLIAMS over $750,000. For the same time period, over 40,000 Medicaid claims were submitted by WILLIAMS for group psychological therapy, causing Georgia Medicaid to pay out over $225,000.

An investigation of WILLIAMS’ claims showed that, in many cases, he sought payment for services provided to beneficiaries who were deceased at the time he purportedly rendered the care. In two cases, the patient died over a year before he was allegedly seen by WILLIAMS in the nursing home. Numerous claims were submitted to Medicare and Medicaid for group psychological therapy when the beneficiary was hospitalized at the time of service and, consequently, could not have received care at the nursing home as represented.

WILLIAMS was indicted on February 22, 2011 on 10 counts of health care fraud. Today WILLIAMS pleaded guilty to two of those counts. He could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each count. In determining the actual sentence, the court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.

Sentencing has been scheduled for August 23, 2011, at 11:30 a.m. before United States District Judge Richard W. Story.

This case is being investigated by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

Assistant United States Attorneys Kurt R. Erskine and Nick Oldham, and Senior Assistant Attorney General Nancy Alstrom from the Georgia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, are prosecuting the case.