Scooter Store Investigated by FBI in Alleged $100M Medicare Scam

Friday, 22 Feb 2013 01:00 PM

By Dale Eisinger

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The Scooter Store, the nation's largest seller of motorized scooters and wheelchairs, is being investigated by the FBI after allegations the Texas-based company defrauded the federal government of more than $100 million.

At least 150 federal and state agents raided the company's headquarters in New Braunfels on Wednesday. Agents from the Office of the Inspector General, FBI, and Texas Attorney General swarmed the complex searching for evidence.

FBI agents told many workers to leave immediately without touching their desks, while some were held back for interviews. All 1,200 workers in the complex were not allowed back inside once they left.

The feds have had an eye on The Scooter Store since an earlier scam.

Bracewell & Giuliani, a law and lobbying firm associated with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliana, lobbied the Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of The Scooter for Medicare coverage of its power scooters and wheelchairs. In 2007, The Scooter Store agreed to pay a $4 million fine and surrender $43 million in Medicare claims over allegations by the Justice Department that it had defrauded the government.

Wednesday's raid apparently stemmed from a CBS News investigation that claimed Scooter Store employees pressured doctors and seniors into costly mobility equipment patients didn't need.

Instead of helping handicapped people gain mobility, CBS reported, the company's goal was to "bulldoze" doctors to "get the paperwork done." The company reportedly pestered doctors with phone calls and visits to wear them down into prescribing vehicles to people who didn't need them.

Once doctors wrote the prescriptions, Medicare would write a check that "should have never been cashed," invesigators said. Employees at the Scooter Store told CBS that the company ranked doctors as to how likely they were to prescribe a power wheelchair.

A report by the Inspector General estimated that between 2009 and 2012, the Scooter Store overbilled Medicare by $108 million dollars and said about 80 percent of power chairs were unnecessarily prescribed so the company could obtain the subsidized Medicare money. Medicare officials rarely look into whether the patient's condition warrants a power chair.

A leaked email from Scooter Chair CEO Martin Marty Landon said Wednesday was a "confusing and troubling day for many of us."

"I know this is a difficult time," Landon wrote, according to the Daily Mail, "but our best remedy, I believe, is to continue to cooperate fully in this investigation and to serve our customers with a high level of quality, integrity and service."

Landon instructed employees to tell customers they complied with all federal laws.

Related stories:

Medicare Attacking Motorized Wheelchair Fraud

Doctors Accused in Nationwide $432 Million Medicare Fraud

Team Obama Has Already Chopped into Medicare

Obama Offers to Scrap Some Obsolete Medicare Regulations

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