HOUSTON – Advanced Cardiovascular Care Center P.A. and its owner and
administrator have agreed to pay $400,000 to resolve allegations they
violated the False Claims Act (FCA), announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K.
Owner Dr. Annie T. Varughese, 57, and administrator Babu Varughese,
64, both of Spring, conducted business in three clinics located in
Houston, Conroe and The Woodlands.
From June 4, 2013, through June 4, 2016, the company submitted claims
to Medicare for cardiology services. These included cardiac external
counterpulsation treatments, transthoracic echocardiography studies and
duplex scans that were not reasonable and medically necessary.
Therefore, they failed to meet the Medicare coverage and documentation
Further, patient files lacked documentation that Varughese directly
supervised the cardiology services as Medicare requires. The company
billed Medicare for services under Varughese’s provider number when she
was not in the office and, at times, not even in the United States.
“Putting financial gain ahead of medical necessity undermines the
integrity of the Medicare program,” said Special Agent in Charge Miranda
Bennett of the Department of Health and Human Services – Office of
Inspector General (DHHS-OIG). “We will continue investigate and hold
accountable those who submit false claims to federal health care
“The largest area of fraud committed against the federal government
today is by unethical healthcare providers who inflate or fabricate
Medicare or Medicaid bills,” said Special Agent in Charge Perrye K.
Turner of the FBI. “Billing Medicare for services that are not necessary
and/or not provided constitutes fraud. American taxpayers are the ones
who ultimately bear the financial burden created by this, as healthcare
fraud translates into higher premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for
consumers. We ask for the public's help in reporting and exposing
dishonest healthcare providers."
The investigation began in 2016 after a former cardiologist filed a
sealed lawsuit under the qui tam provisions of the FCA. It allows
private citizens with knowledge of fraud to bring a lawsuit on behalf of
the United States. They may be entitled to a share of the proceeds of
the action or any settlement.
DHHS-OIG and FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Redlinger handled the matter.