GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – At the conclusion of a five-week jury trial, Ona M. Colasante, 59, a physician from Gainesville, Florida, was convicted yesterday of 162 counts of health care fraud. The verdict was announced by Christopher P. Canova, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
Colasante owned and operated medical businesses known as the Hawthorne Medical Center in Hawthorne, Florida, between 1998 and March 2009, and the Colasante Clinic in Gainesville, Florida, between January 2010 and January 2013. Through these businesses, Colasante defrauded Medicare, Medicaid, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida through a series of false billing schemes. At trial, the government presented evidence that Colasante, and employees acting at her direction, ordered non-FDA approved drugs at a drastically reduced price, administered them to unsuspecting patients, and then fraudulently billed insurance companies for the cost of FDA-approved drugs. The evidence showed that Colasante also billed insurance companies for medically unnecessary tests and submitted false diagnosis codes in support of her fraudulent claims for reimbursement.
In addition, Colasante billed insurance companies for counseling, treatment, and training that was never performed. Her businesses repeatedly submitted fraudulent billings for smoking-cessation treatment purportedly administered to patients who were non-smokers.
Colasante faces up to 10 years’ imprisonment on each of the counts of conviction. Sentencing is scheduled for July 25, 2016, at 10:00 a.m. at the United States Courthouse in Gainesville, Florida.
United States Attorney Canova praised the work of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Florida Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and the United States Food and Drug Administration, whose joint investigation led to the convictions in this case.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Tiffany H. Eggers and Ryan J. Love.
“Health care programs and patients depend on ethical practices from medical providers,” said United States Attorney Canova. “I commend the diligent investigators and prosecutors who uphold our federal laws and bring to justice those who abuse their positions of trust.”
“The Medicare system relies on doctors to diagnose and treat beneficiaries,” stated Shimon Richmond, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. “When doctors intentionally misdiagnose patients, perform unnecessary tests and procedures, and use non-FDA approved drugs and devices on patients for personal gain, they betray the trust of the Medicare system and the patients themselves.”
“This case is the result of coordination between multiple federal and state law enforcement agencies, working together to protect the American health care system. Crimes committed through fraudulent and excessive claims are not victimless; Americans everywhere absorb the costs of those schemes through higher insurance costs and medical bills. The FBI and their law enforcement partners will vigilantly identify those engaging in similar conduct and advocate for their prosecution,” said Michelle S. Klimt, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Jacksonville Division.
"The FDA's requirements for approving new drug applications are designed to ensure the safety, efficacy and quality of drugs distributed to American consumers," said Robert J. West, Special Agent in Charge of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations’ Miami Field Office. "The FDA will continue to aggressively pursue those who place the public health at risk by distributing foreign unapproved prescription drugs of unknown origin and ingredients instead of FDA-approved drugs."
The United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. For more information about the United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Florida, visithttp://www.justice.gov/usao/fln/index.html.
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