After winning only one major case, health care unit is cut as the Justice Department shifts priorities to violent crime, drugs and illegal immigration.
Last fall, the U.S. Department of Justice claimed a major victory for its Health Care Corporate Fraud Strike Force when it nailed Tenet Healthcare Corp. for a multimillion-dollar kickback and bribery scheme. It was the strike force’s first major victory, and it also may have been its last. DOJ has gutted the strike force under Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new priorities of violent crime, drugs and illegal immigration, reports Law.com. The unit has been cut from five full-time lawyers to only two, who are splitting their time in the strike force with other duties. A DOJ spokesperson said the strike force, which was created in 2015, is “going strong.”
Tenet Healthcare was a whistleblower case involving Medicaid fraud that had been languishing in court since 2009 until the strike force stepped in. Last fall, the firm agreed to a $516 million settlement, compliance reforms and an independent monitor for three years. Two subsidiaries in Georgia pleaded guilty, two individuals have been convicted and a third has been charged. Tenet said supervisors lied to in-house counsel about the purpose of millions of dollars in contracts, which purportedly were for “services” but really were bribes and kickbacks to clinics and doctors for sending Medicaid patients to Tenet hospitals. Some DOJ lawyers say that white-collar crime and corporate fraud resources are being shifted to cover violent crime, drug and illegal immigration cases.