Five charged in $11 million health care fraud scheme

Rochester Hills recruiter, West Bloomfield doctor, Farmington Hills business owner among those charged

By: Mary Beth Almond | Metro | Published May 10, 2023

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METRO DETROIT — Five people were charged in connection with a health care fraud scheme to embezzle more than $11 million, according to the U.S Attorney’s Office.

U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison said a second indictment has charged Mohamed Kazkaz, 54, of Farmington Hills; Ziad Khalel, 52, of Rochester Hills; Dr. Mustafa Hares, 76, of West Bloomfield; Geraldine Letman, 70, of Phoenix; and Gamela Ali, 33, of Dearborn.

Kazkaz and Khalel were originally charged in a Jan. 11 indictment, and Hares, Letman and Ali were added as new defendants in the May 4 superseding indictment.

“My office is committed to prosecuting any individual, especially medical professionals, who exploit Medicare, a taxpayer-funded program that provides essential services to seniors and disabled individuals,” Ison said in a statement.

Federal prosecutors say Kazkaz — the owner of the psychotherapy agency Centre HRW — offered kickbacks to Khalel, who was a patient recruiter, to refer Medicare beneficiaries to his agency for services that were never given or not medically necessary. According to court records, Khalel made the beneficiaries sign blank Centre HRW sign-in sheets, which Kazkaz used to submit claims to Medicare for services that were never provided.

Ali, the office manager of Centre HRW, was allegedly responsible for collecting patient information to make sure Kazkaz never submitted claims for a fake appointment on the same date a patient had a real appointment with another provider.

Hares and Letman are accused of completing false patient charts, claiming to see patients they never provided psychotherapy services to.

According to the indictment, Centre HRW billed Medicare more than $11 million, and Medicare made over $5.3 million in payments to Centre HRW.

“The payment of kickbacks to induce referrals for medical services in Federal healthcare programs, as well as billing for services not rendered, can undermine the trust we place in our nation’s providers and results in costly reductions to our federal health care programs,” Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General Mario Pinto said in a statement.

Pinto said the department will continue to work with law enforcement partners to “ensure that those who commit fraud and pay kickbacks are held accountable.”

James Tarasca, special agent in charge of the FBI in Michigan, agreed, stating that health care professionals who fraudulently bill Medicare for services never actually provided divert taxpayer money meant to pay for medically necessary services for people enrolled in Medicare.

“The FBI is committed to working with our partners to eradicate schemes that defraud government-sponsored healthcare programs,” he said in a statement.

Attorneys for the suspects could not be reached by press time.