An alleged scheme to defraud Medicare of billions of dollars stretched across the United States, including New York, and has thus far resulted in criminal charges for two dozen people since authorities broke it up on Tuesday. As the investigation is still ongoing, and available evidence implicates 130 medical equipment companies, it seems possible that further charges could be forthcoming. 

Complaints to the Medicare fraud hotline last summer tipped authorities off to the alleged scam. Those charged thus far involve medical equipment companies that shipped orthopedic braces for the knee, shoulder, wrist and back to Medicare recipients and doctors who reportedly wrote fake prescriptions.

The scheme allegedly involved offering senior citizens on Medicare free orthopedic braces, even to people who did not need them, reportedly making contact through television and radio advertisements, as well as telemarketing. Upon making contact with Medicare beneficiaries interested in receiving the free equipment, the next step was allegedly to direct them to verify their Medicare coverage to off-shore call centers located in places like Latin America or the Philippines. 

Once the beneficiaries provided their Medicare information to these call centers, telemedicine companies allegedly obtained fake prescriptions from doctors, which they then reportedly sold to medical equipment companies. Upon shipping the requested braces to customers, the medical equipment companies then billed Medicare. Profits from the alleged scheme reportedly ranged from $300 to $900 per brace.

Medicare has reportedly lost an estimated $1.2 billion due to the alleged scam, but the government may attempt to recoup some of those losses by seizing assets from those involved, some of whom have reportedly spent the money on obtaining luxury homes, yachts and high-end cars.

The legal system may be keen to make an example of those charged with white collar crimes, which is why those facing such charges may find it helpful to hire an attorney.