A Philadelphia ambulance driver who conspired with his employers to bilk Medicare out of $3.6 million dollars was sentenced today to two years in prison.
Valeriy Davydchik, 59, was a driver for Penn Choice Ambulance Inc. which operated out of Huntingdon Valley.
Davydchik, a Russian immigrant, operated his ambulance as if it was taxi service. Because Medicare reimbursed the company $400 for every round trip to a kidney dialysis center, and each patient required three visits a week, a single customer could generate nearly $5,000 a month. The reimbursements are intended to provide service to patients who can not walk or otherwise travel safely for treatment.
Davydchik’s patients, who included his wife, were able to walk. To cover for the fraud, the patients were asked to climb onto a gurney to be wheeled to the ambulance. One of the patients, according to court papers, rode next to him in the front passenger’s seat while smoking. Penn Choice billed Medicare $100,000 for that patient alone, according to court papers.
Not only did Davydchik’s patients get free rides, they received kick-backs in return for their continued patronage, prosecutors said.
Davydchik began working for Penn Choice in April 2011 and was a full member of the conspiracy by Jan. 2012, driving up to 10 patients a day. Even after he admitted to FBI investigators that he knew his activity was illegal, he continued to drive for Penn Choice for an additional six months until he was arrested on Apr. 10, 2013, according to court papers.
Medicaid fraud costs the U.S. taxpayers about $80 billion a year. According to prosecutors, the Philadelphia region has served as home to a “significant” number of unscrupulous ambulance transport providers. The amount of fraud prompted the Centers for Medicare Services in January to impose a moratorium on new Medicare ambulance providers in an effort to stop the chicanery.
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Juan R. Sanches ordered Davydchik to pay restitution, serve three years of supervised release, and forfeit $870,310.