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Doctor's assistant convicted in $10.7-million Medicare fraud scheme

June 4, 2012 |  1:00 pm

A Leimert Park physician assistant faces up to 72 years in federal prison after being convicted of stealing doctors' identities to write fake prescriptions in a $10.7-million Medicare fraud scheme.

A Los Angeles jury Friday found David James Garrison, 50, guilty on charges of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, healthcare fraud and aggravated identity theft, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Monday.

Prosecutors said Garrison wrote prescriptions for diagnostic tests and medical equipment — primarily power wheelchairs — in a larger fraud ring that swindled nearly $11 million out of Medicare, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Street-level recruiters would track down Medicare recipients in Southern California and tell them they could get power wheelchairs for free as long as they provided their Medicare billing information, officials said.

Garrison would then write fraudulent prescriptions on behalf of doctors he had never met, using information from patients he often did not know.

"In some cases, Garrison wrote power-wheelchair prescriptions for beneficiaries he never examined and who never visited the clinics," the U.S. Attorney's Office said. "In one instance ... Garrison prescribed a power wheelchair to a beneficiary who did not have the mental capacity to operate the wheelchair."

Ultimately, the fake prescriptions were sold to fraudulent medical-supply companies that would bill Medicare for the wheelchairs, officials said. Although the supply companies were able to purchase the wheelchairs for about $900 each, the bills they sent Medicare often reached $5,000 per wheelchair.

In all, Garrison and his co-conspirators submitted more than $18 million in false claims, prosecutors said. Medicare paid about $10.7 million of the costs.

U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall will sentence Garrison on Sept. 2. He faces a maximum of 72 years in federal prison and a $2-million fine.

He also faces federal drug charges in another case, in which OxyContin was distributed using "medically unnecessary prescriptions," officials said. The trial in that case begins Nov 6.

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— Kate Mather

twitter.com/katemather

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