SAN FRANCISCO — A chain of sleep clinics agreed to pay $2.6
million to settle the U.S. government’s accusation that it made
false Medicare claims over a 15-year period.
The U.S. attorney suit, which was brought against Bay Sleep Clinic
in South Bay, followed a private suit by a former employee filed in
2012. Bay Sleep Clinic technician Elma Dresser will receive about
$545,000 under the federal whistleblower act, according to a report
Dresser was represented
by attorneys Jessica Moore, Eric Havian, Anne Hayes Hartman, Hallie
Nocker and Sarah Poppy Alexander of Constantine Cannon, a practice
based in San Francisco.
"It's rewarding to see the alleged fraudsters held
responsible. Because of the close cooperation and work between the
whistleblower and the government, we were able to recover significant
funds for the government," Hayes Hartman said in a news
release. "It is gratifying to represent people like Elma
Dresser, who bravely stepped forward with knowledge of her employer's
wrongdoing. Many do not appreciate the risks whistleblowers face to
hold alleged wrongdoers accountable."
The company owns
20 clinics in Northern California that treat patients with sleep
disorders. According to the suit,
the clinic’s owners and operators, Anooshiravan Mostowfipour, 58,
and Tara Nader, 58, had billed Medicare going back to April 2002 for
sleep tests by technicians who did not have the needed certification.
According to the news
release, the lawsuit “alleged that the defendants fraudulently
billed Medicare for sleep studies conducted by unlicensed individuals
in unapproved locations; improperly dispensed durable medical
equipment from unapproved locations using unlicensed technicians; and
paid doctors for referrals in violation of the federal Anti-Kickback
Statute.” The company's owners did not admit to or deny liability.
Khouri, a lawyer for the owners, said in the SFGate.com
they “continue to deny any wrongdoing. The case was settled because
my clients believe in spending their time making money rather than
litigating in the courthouse.”
The settlement was announced
by the U.S. government on Dec. 28 and as part of the settlements, the
owners are not allowed to make any Medicare claims for three years.
Dresser had worked
at the clinic for eight years as a sleep technician and marketer.
Through her various roles at the company, Dresser gained knowledge of
the defendants' alleged plan to defraud Medicare. After she filed her
suit, the government investigated the claims and took part in the
“Sleep studies are a quickly expanding medical field,"
Moore said in the news
release. "Ensuring the safety of these procedures should be
a top priority of the government for all patients, Medicare and
Under the federal False Claims Act, whistleblowers can sue
companies that are defrauding the government as well as earn a reward
should the government recover any funds during the process.
“Medicare patients expect to be treated by properly credentialed
health-care professionals in approved locations,” U.S. Attorney
Brian Stretch said in a statement, according to SFGate.com.