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Lab owner pleads guilty to $6.9 million genetic testing and COVID-19 testing fraud scheme

Christian Fernsby |
A Florida man pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Florida to a $6.9 million conspiracy to defraud Medicare by paying kickbacks and bribes to obtain doctors’ orders for medically unnecessary lab tests that were then billed to Medicare.

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The defendant exploited the COVID-19 pandemic by bundling COVID-19 testing with other forms of testing that patients did not need, including genetic testing and tests for rare respiratory pathogens.

According to court documents, Christopher Licata, 45, of Delray Beach, admitted that, as owner of Boca Toxicology LLC (dba Lab Dynamics), he bribed patient brokers who would refer Medicare beneficiaries and doctors’ orders authorizing medically unnecessary genetic testing to Licata’s laboratory. Licata and these patient brokers entered into sham agreements to disguise the true purpose of these payments.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic began, Licata exploited patients’ fears of COVID-19 by bundling COVID-19 tests with more expensive, medically unnecessary testing, including respiratory pathogen panel testing and, at times, genetic testing for cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, obesity, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In total, Licata caused his laboratory to submit over $6.9 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for these medically unnecessary tests.

Licata pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit health care fraud. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 24 and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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