It is estimated that Medicaid fraud costs American taxpayers approximately $80 billion per year. A portion of that tab can be traced to fraudulent ambulance transport providers, who are supposed to provide a ride to qualified beneficiaries requiring medical services. An article posted on Philly.com describes a Philadelphia ambulance driver who conspired with his employers to steal $3.6 million from the Medicare program.

The story states that the 59-year-old driver used his ambulance as a taxi service, providing transportation for patients who were able to walk, including his wife. (Now that is certainly convenient.) Patients were asked to climb onto a gurney to be wheeled to the ambulance. One patient even testified that he rode next to the ambulance driver in the front passenger seat while smoking. (Now there’s a picture of health.) Court records show that the ambulance service billed Medicare $100,000 for this particular passenger. (For that amount of money, he could have rented a nice limousine.)

The driver not only gave free rides to patients, but his customers also got kickbacks for continuing to choose the ambulance service to provide for their transportation needs. (You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.) For every round trip, that meant the company could bill for $400. One single customer had the potential to generate $5,000 a month.

The ambulance driver admitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that he knew that his actions were illegal, but continued to drive for the company over the next six months until arrested. The fraudster was sentenced to two years in prison followed by three years of supervised release, ordered to pay restitution and will forfeit more than $870,000.

As the saying goes, nothing is ever free. Perhaps the only “free” ride this guy is going to get is in a paddy wagon headed straight for jail.

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