Following her conviction on one count of conspiracy to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare through her employer — American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC) and a related company, American Sleep Institute — Nichole Eckert a mental health therapist has been sentenced to four years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. She also was ordered to pay more than $72 million in restitution, jointly and severally, with her co-defendants for participating in a $205 million Medicare fraud scheme.
ATC, headquartered in Miami, operated partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) in locations in South Florida and Orlando. According to the U.S. Attorney’s press release, ATC secured patients by paying kickbacks to assisted living facility owners and halfway house owners who would then steer patients to ATC for PHP treatments.
The referred patients were found to be ineligible for the PHP treatments which ATC billed to Medicare. Funds received from Medicare were laundered by some of the co-conspirators to create cash to pay kickbacks.
Eckert’s role was to fabricate patient files to substantiate Medicare claims and make it appear that ATC patients were qualified for PHP treatment. The false records also showed that patients were receiving the intensive, individualized treatment PHPs are supposed to provide. Some or the patients were ineligible for PHP treatments. ATC, a related company, Medlink, and dozens of individuals have previously been convicted at trial or pleaded guilty for their participation in the scheme.