WASHINGTON – Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Aleksandr Pikus was sentenced by United States District Judge Ann M. Donnelly to 13 years’ imprisonment for his role in a massive healthcare kickback and money laundering conspiracy. Pikus was also ordered by the Court to pay restitution in the amount of $23 million to Medicare, $16 million to Medicaid, $433,297 to the Internal Revenue Service and forfeit $2,614,233.79. Pikus was convicted by a federal jury in November 2019 of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, two counts of money laundering, one count of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States by obstructing the IRS.
Seth D. DuCharme, acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Brian C. Rabbitt, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, New York Region (HHS-OIG), and Jonathan D. Larsen, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, New York (IRS-CI), announced the sentence.
“The defendant’s key role in an elaborate scheme to steal and conceal tens of millions of dollars from the Medicare and Medicaid programs, was staggering in scope and deserving of the significant punishment he received today,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney DuCharme. “This Office takes very seriously its obligation to protect government funds that provide vital medical coverage counted upon by individuals and families who qualify because of their low income, disability or advanced years.”
“For nearly a decade, Aleksandr Pikus stole millions of dollars from the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs in a major healthcare kickback, money laundering and tax fraud scheme,” stated Acting Assistant Attorney General Rabbitt. “This significant sentence holds Pikus accountable for his leadership role in this scheme and reflects the Department’s commitment to protecting our valuable federal healthcare programs and their beneficiaries from this kind of fraud.”
“Pikus was the kingpin running a massive money laundering and kickback health care fraud syndicate,” stated HHS-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Lampert. “Now, like others who plot to steal from government health programs, he is paying a heavy price for his crimes. Along with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to root out individuals who steal vital taxpayer-provided health funds.”
“The defendant’s greed and desire for money drove him to perpetrate crimes against our healthcare system and prey upon the vulnerable in our society,” stated IRS-CI Special Agent-in-Charge Larsen. “Justice has been served and IRS-CI will continue to work alongside our counterparts to uncover these schemes to hold these criminals accountable for their actions.”
The evidence at trial established that over the course of nearly a decade, Pikus and his co-conspirators perpetrated a scheme through a series of medical clinics in Brooklyn and Queens that employed doctors, physical and occupational therapists and other medical professionals who were enrolled in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. In return for illegal kickbacks, Pikus referred beneficiaries to these health care providers, who submitted claims to the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Pikus and his co-conspirators then laundered a substantial portion of the proceeds of these claims through companies he controlled, including by cashing checks at several New York City check-cashing businesses. Pikus then failed to report that cash income to the IRS. Instead, Pikus used the cash to enrich himself and others and to pay kickbacks to patient recruiters, who, in turn, paid beneficiaries to receive treatment at the medical clinics. The evidence further established that Pikus and his co-conspirators used sham shell companies and fake invoices to conceal their illegal activities.
Pikus used violent threats to protect his scheme. For example, he threatened a co-conspirator who was thinking about leaving the scheme by saying: “[Y]ou know, you[’re] already with us so the only way out is feet first through the door,” meaning “like in a body bag.” When a therapist left the Pikus Clinics, the defendant told a co-conspirator “I’m hearing that he might be trying to take patients from our clinics to that other clinic. . . tell him he better stop unless he likes his legs to be broken.”
More than 25 other individuals have pleaded guilty to or been convicted of participating in the scheme, including physicians, physical and occupational therapists, ambulette drivers and the owners of several of the shell companies used to launder the stolen money.
This case was investigated by the HHS-OIG and IRS-CI, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. Assistant Chief A. Brendan Stewart and Trial Attorneys Sarah Wilson Rocha and Andrew Estes of the Fraud Section are prosecuting the case with Assistant U.S. Attorney Claire S. Kedeshian of the Eastern District of New York’s Civil Division, which is handling forfeiture matters.
The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which is part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for approximately $19 billion. In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
Brooklyn, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No.: 16-CR-329 (AMD)