A Georgia doctor was recently sentenced to five years’ probation for his role in a telemedicine scheme.
Dr. Anthony Securo was a physician licensed in Georgia. In the concisely drafted September 19, 2019 indictment, the government charged Securo with healthcare fraud, 18 USC § 1347, and false statement relating to healthcare matters, 18 U.S.C. § 1035. According to the indictment, Securo signed thousands of durable medical equipment (DME) order that were fraudulent because they were not medically necessary, were obtained via telemedicine consultations that did not establish a doctor-patient relationship or otherwise meet Medicare regulations, and were tainted by kickbacks from the DME company. The indictment included a typical forfeiture allegation.
Dr. Securo pleaded guilty on March 4, 2020 to one count of making false statements under §1035. The plea agreement included cooperation language related and, interestingly, an explicit agreement that the government would recommend a sentence less than 30 months’ imprisonment.
On May 19, 2020, the district court imposed a sentence of five years’ probation, during the first year of which Securo is “restricted to his residence at all times” except for work, religious services, and other limited exceptions. Restitution was imposed, consistent with the plea agreement, in the amount of $449,070.
The Securo case is typical in many ways but has a couple interesting features. Section 1035 is less commonly charged in telemedicine cases than many other statutes. Importantly, unlike two of the most commonly charged offenses, healthcare fraud (18 USC §1347) and fraud-related conspiracy (18 USC § 1349), § 1035 carries only a five-year statutory maximum. Particularly in scheme-based cases with exorbitant losses based on billed amounts, the lower statutory maximum can greatly reduce the sentencing exposure of a defendant, depending on the loss and other sentencing factors. The plea agreement also was notable in that it put an explicit cap on the government’s recommended sentence. The Southern District of Georgia is an active district for telemedicine-related cases, so whether these were case-specific issues or not, it is a jurisdiction to watch for further developments in this area.