The owner of an Iowa medical supply store has been sentenced to more than three years in prison for submitting falsified documents to federal authorities investigating fraud allegations raised by a whistleblower in a False Claims Act lawsuit.
According to The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette, James O’Connor, 64, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $350,000 in restitution to the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Mr. O’Connor owned and operated O’Connor Medical Supply Inc., a durable medical equipment vendor in the Des Moines, Iowa area. A whistleblower filed a False Claims Act suit against Mr. O’Connor and his company on behalf of the U.S. government, alleging they were submitting claims to Medicare and Medicaid for more expensive models of medical equipment than what they actually provided to beneficiaries. Mr. O’Connor agreed to pay nearly $900,000 to resolve those civil allegations after pleading guilty in June to one charge of providing false documents to federal investigators.
When a private citizen or other entity files a complaint under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal authorities investigate the whistleblower claims.
During its investigation of O’Connor Medical Supply, the federal government found evidence that Mr. O’Connor had provided a document to prosecutors in which he falsified information in an effort to conceal that he billed Medicare for more complex and expensive medical devices than were provided.
According to The Gazette, court documents show the whistleblower told federal investigators that Mr. O’Connor was forging the signatures of doctors who had prescribed certain medical devices by cutting, copying, and pasting the doctors’ signatures from one document to another. Court documents show that Mr. O’Connor performed these forgeries to make it appear that the physicians had prescribed more expensive devices.
U.S. District Senior Judge Linda Reade said in sentencing that Mr. O’Connor’s criminal conduct was “sophisticated” and marked by “greed, deception, and lying,” The Gazette reported. The judge also denied Mr. O’Connor’s request for a one-day sentence, noting his forgeries of doctors’ signatures were a substantial aggravating factor.