A local man was indicted by a federal grand jury for defrauding hundreds of senior citizens, for more than $1 million dollars by convincing them to submit to unnecessary genetic testing, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced in a news release Friday evening.
Seth Rehfuss, 43, of Somerset, used a purported nonprofit named the Good Samaritans of America along with co-conspirator Sheila Kahl of Point Pleasant, to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to wrongfully access individually identifiable health information and to pay illegal remunerations to health care professionals, according to authorities.
Rehfuss' scheme lasted from July 2014 through December 2015, according to authorities. Rehfuss, Kahl, and others deceived low-income seniors to gain access to them for presentations, according to authorities.
Seniors were told Good Samaritans of America was a nonprofit that helps seniors navigate federal benefit programs, according to authorities. However, the organization was a front to present information about genetic testing, according to authorities.
"In order to convince senior citizens to submit to genetic testing, Rehfuss used fear-based tactics during the presentations, including suggesting the senior citizens would be vulnerable to heart attacks, stroke, cancer and suicide if they did not have the genetic testing," Carpenito said in a news release. "In addition, Rehfuss claimed that the genetic testing allowed for “personalized medicine.”
According to authorities, Rehfuss, Kahl and others caused the Medicare program to pay more than $1 million to two clinical laboratories.
"Rehfuss obtained more than $100,000 and distributed commissions to Kahl of tens of thousands of dollars," Carpenito said in a news release. "Rehfuss and others were actively working towards expanding the scheme outside of New Jersey into other states, including: Georgia, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Michigan, Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee and Arizona."
Authorities say Rehfuss and others took DNA swabs from senior citizens in their homes and community rooms during the presentations. The DNA swabs were collected without the involvement of any healthcare provider and without any determination by a healthcare provider that such testing was medically necessary or appropriate, according to authorities.
According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:
To get the tests authorized, Rehfuss used advertisements on Craigslist to recruit healthcare providers for the scheme. After entering into contractual relationships with The Good Samaritans of America, the healthcare providers received requisition forms that often included a patient’s personal information, Medicare information, medication lists and diagnosis codes.
The healthcare providers were paid thousands of dollars per month by Rehfuss and Kahl to sign their names to requisition forms authorizing testing for patients they never examined and were in no way involved in the patients’ care or treatment. Rehfuss and Kahl used fraudulent email accounts to access the individually identifiable health information of the senior citizens, specifically the results of the DNA analysis.
The healthcare fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sheila Kahl previously pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert, along with special agents of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, with the investigation leading to today’s indictment.
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