The nationwide kickback conspiracy generated some
And one of the key pieces of the far-flung operation was a 43-year-old
Chmiel's alleged illegal schemes, which are believed to have started in 2014, generated more than
Lydon called the investigation "one of the largest Medicare fraud investigations in the history of the FBI, the
Hundreds of thousands of elderly and disabled Medicare patients were "lured" into the criminal scheme and ordered medically unnecessary braces, according to a press release by the
So far in the case, more than 80 search warrants in 17 federal districts have been served and 24 defendants have been charged, Lydon said. Searches and seizures in the case were being carried out Tuesday by more than 100 law officers from six federal agencies. Officials code-named the investigation "Operation Brace Yourself."
Defendants include owners and managers at telemedicine companies, medical equipment companies and three "licensed medical professionals," Lydon said.
"The proceeds of the scheme were used to purchase exotic cars, yachts and luxury real estate across
The conspiracy used TV and online advertisements to encourage Medicare-eligible people to call international call centers, which then pre-qualified the person as Medicare-eligible and linked them up with doctors, telemedicine companies and medical equipment companies that went on to bill Medicare "millions upon millions of dollars," federal officials said.
The offshore call centers, which were not named in Chmiel's indictments, appear to have been essential to the scheme.
Chmiel had an interest in 10 medical equipment companies and four other companies in six different states, according to an indictment in the case.
The final step in the scheme involved the companies fraudulently billing Medicare and getting the payments, Lydon said.
The investigation originated in
"These individuals were motivated by greed," said
Lydon said the Medicare fraud "is not a victimless crime.
"Ultimately, it is the taxpayers who will pay for higher healthcare premiums and out-of-pocket costs that result from fraud on our Medicare system," she said.
Federal officials seek to seize 22 separate bank accounts and five cars from Chmiel, including two Mercedes, a Ferrari and an Infiniti.
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