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FL woman pleads guilty to role in medical brace fraud following ABC-27 investigation

Scheme used medical braces to exploit elderly, steal from taxpayers, feds say
Kelly Wolfe of Tampa Bay, now faces a maximum of 13 years in federal prison.
Posted at 9:47 AM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 09:49:19-05

TAMPA, Fla — A Florida woman has pled guilty to healthcare fraud charges stemming from her role in a scheme that used medical braces to exploit the elderly and steal from taxpayers, federal investigators said on Thursday.

Kelly Wolfe of Tampa Bay According to federal investigators, between 2017 and 2019, Wolfe used her billing company to establish DME fronts using “trickery and deception.” As part of the scheme, Wolfe used straw owners to conceal her ownership of many companies so she could submit a total of over $400 million in illegal DME claims to Medicare and the medical program within the Department of Veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
now faces a maximum of 13 years in federal prison.

According to the U.S. Attorney in the Middle District of Florida, Wolfe who runs a medical billing company, Regency Inc., falsified documentation in order to establish bonus durable medical equipment (DME) companies to bill for medically unnecessary equipment.

Medicare Fraud

Two years ago, she became the subject of an I-team investigation when we traced her to numerous durable medical equipment companies in the Tampa Bay area. The companies claimed to provide seniors with medical braces. As part of our Emmy-award winning series into medicare fraud through the use of DME equipment, Medicare patients told us how they received boxes of medical braces they never needed, wanted, and or ordered.

According to investigators, Wolfe and her conspirators bribed doctors to approve prescriptions for the braces. In almost all the cases, investigators said doctors had no contact with any of the beneficiaries they wrote medical brace prescriptions for.

In 2019, the feds raided numerous DME companies around the country as part of a historic crackdown on healthcare fraud. Wolfe’s DME companies were among the businesses raided in “Operation Brace Yourself.”

Investigators said Wolfe also admitted to using funds from her billing company to pay for personal expenses and did not report this as income to the IRS. As part of her settlement, Wolfe has agreed to pay back more than $20 million.

“This pernicious telefraud scheme’s ambitions were cut short by the exceptional partnership of our law enforcement partners,” said Special Agent in Charge Omar Pérez Aybar of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. “This guilty plea and the forfeiture of tens of millions of dollars back to the U.S. Treasury show our determination to stop such damaging fraud schemes and to bring fraudsters to justice.”