“HOW LOW CAN YOU GO”
Just when you think fraudsters can’t reach a new low, you read about Michael Mann, the owner of Seattle-based Wheelchairs Plus. Mr. Mann has been ordered to pay $2.7 million for fraudulently billing the Medicaid program for 119 new wheelchairs. Unfortunately, what Mann delivered were actually used wheelchairs purchased from nursing homes or off of websites such as Craigslist. Mann would actually go so far as creating a new serial number after cobbling together rebuilt chairs from various sources.
Mann applied the serial numbers because Medicaid will not pay for a used or rebuilt chair, but, rather, will only reimburse for a “new” chair. In fact, Medicaid would pay several thousand dollars for a “new chair” when the chairs would only cost a couple of hundred dollars to rebuild used.
In an effort to avoid all of the various debts accumulated by Wheelchairs Plus, Mann filed for bankruptcy in May, 2015. The US bankruptcy judge ruled that the $2.7 million judgment against Mann for the fraudulent billing could not be discharged in bankruptcy and had to be paid.
The case was originally brought utilizing the False Claims Act in the state of Washington. The False Claims Act in Washington, like the federal False Claims Act, and the False Claims Act in 20+ other states, allows for a reward to be paid to the individual reporting the fraud. As the matter is currently in bankruptcy court and Mann has not yet paid the judgment, no award to the relator has yet been determined. However, if payments are made by Mann, the relator would be entitled to share in the money recovered by the state of Washington. In most cases, the relator would receive between 15% and 30% of the amount recovered.
Wheelchairs, like other Durable Medical Equipment (“DME”), are reimbursed by federal and state programs based upon certain criteria. Fraudsters will often attempt to substitute a different and often cheaper product or, alternatively, they will attempt to “recycle” previously used equipment. If you know of DME fraud, you should contact a qualified whistleblower attorney to determine whether or not you can bring the fraud to the attention of the federal government or a state and recover a reward for the information.