A federal jury has convicted former Canon Healthcare owner Shiva Akula for False Claims Act violations totaling nearly $47 million.
Canon Healthcare was a New Orleans-based hospice provider that also served the Baton Rouge and Covington, Louisiana, markets, as well as parts of Mississippi. Between 2013 and 2016, the company billed Medicare for $62 million and received $47 million in payments, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
“Health care fraud schemes such as these profoundly impact our nation, not only because of the monetary loss triggered by the fraud, but also by the damaging erosion of public trust,” said U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans in a statement. “Our office, along with our investigative partners, will continue to work diligently to preserve taxpayer confidence in our medical institutions and seek justice for all victims of fraud.”
The court convicted Akula of 23 counts of health care fraud, including eight counts of overbilling for the General Inpatient level of care. This resulted in approximately $600 in excessive payments per patient, per day, which is enough to cover multiple months of Routine Home Care, the Justice Department alleged.
Between 2013 and 2017, Canon billed Medicare for 2,800 claims per month, totalling $15.3 million. Many of the patients behind these claims were not truly hospice eligible, according to federal prosecutors.
Other charges included fraudulent claims for physician services and home visits, as well as manipulation of Medicare billing codes.
Akula could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison as well as fines up to $250,000.
The FBI investigated the case in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and the Louisiana Department of Justice, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
“Mr. Akula took advantage of the American taxpayer by billing for services that weren’t medically necessary, and in some cases, didn’t happen at all,” said Douglas A. Williams, Jr., special agent in charge for the FBI in New Orleans, in a statement. “The FBI will continue its work to uncover fraudulent schemes like this that take advantage of people when they are most vulnerable.”