Collecting Fraud

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People collect all sorts of memorabilia including stamps, comic books, stuffed animals, coins and baseball cards to name just a few. Usually, collectors spend their own money to add something new to their prized collection, but a neurologist from Michigan spent nearly $2 million of illegally gained Medicare payments to fund his $9.3 million collection of baseball cards, ancient coins, collectible currency and stamps.

The neurologist was a pain management doctor, who was heralded as the top dispenser of a cancer painkiller medication in the United States. (It’s important to note that the medicine was not necessary in many cases. He also ordered electromyography (EMG) procedures that were not medically necessary.) His bogus claims allowed him to collect $1.9 million from Medicare and $1.2 million from Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Wondering what he did with all the money he scammed from the government and the insurance industry? Over five years, he spent his illegally gained funds with more than a dozen coin and collectible dealers across the country. When investigators visited his $1.1 million home that overlooked a lake, they found boxes of coins, stamps and Costa Rican currency. They also found coins, currency, baseball cards, jewelry and stamps in at least 16 safe deposit boxes located in two banks. He also kept some of his coins in one of his medical offices. (Several of them were from ancient Rome and Judea and honored former emperors.)

The 58-year-old pleaded guilty to health care fraud and distribution of controlled substances. He could face anywhere between 70 months and 30 years in prison when sentenced.

Under a plea agreement, the neurologist will pay $4.1 million to the U.S. Treasury Department. (This money will be used to compensate the victims. Who knows what impact the cancer medication had on these folks.) Another $1 million will go to the U.S. Treasury Department’s asset forfeiture fund where it will be used to compensate local law enforcement agencies. (Investigators seized his coin collection and another $2.9 million in cash, which will go towards this fraudster’s restitution.)

This memorabilia collector has met his match. He didn’t count on the fact that the government is really good at collecting fraudsters and making them pay for their crimes.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, ”West Bloomfield Township Doctor Pleads Guilty in Medicare Fraud Case,” published by The Bloomfield Patch on November 8, 2016.

A West Bloomfield Township neurologist who reaped millions by allegedly cheating Medicare and spent more than $9.3 million on baseball cards, ancient coins, collectible currency and stamps pleaded guilty on Monday to felony charges.

Dr. Gavin Awerbuch pleaded guilty to health care fraud and distribution of controlled substances before U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow, the Detroit News is reporting.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.