Bogus testing kickback scheme results in guilty plea

By Melissa Busch, LabPulse.com contributing writer

An owner of a telemedicine company pleaded guilty for allegedly accepting kickbacks in exchange for getting doctors to sign off on bogus cancer genetic testing, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Elizabeth Turner, the owner of Advanced Tele-Genetic Counseling, pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud conspiracy in the U.S. District Court in Nashville. Her company received approximately $234,730 in illegal kickback payments, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Middle District of Tennessee.

The 34-year-old is set to be sentenced on May 2. She faces up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, restitution to the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and forfeiture of the illegally received proceeds.

In November, Turner, of Glenview, KY, was charged with allegedly conspiring with Fadel Alshalabi, the owner of Crestar Labs in Spring Hill, TN, and Melissa Lynn "Lisa" Chastain, the owner of marketing company Genetix in Belton, SC, and other marketers and physicians to offer, pay, solicit, and receive illegal kickbacks and to defraud the Medicare and Medicaid Programs.

Between February 2018 and August 2019, Turner is accused of accepting kickback payments from marketers in exchange for providing signed doctors' orders for cancer genomic testing.

The marketers allegedly targeted Medicare and Medicaid patients through door-to-door marketing, visiting senior citizen fairs, nursing homes, and other locations. There, they purportedly convinced patients to submit to mouth swabs to obtain their genetic material. After the swabs were collected, the marketers reportedly sent them to Crestar Labs for testing. Crestar billed Medicare and Medicaid for the tests, according to the release.

Through Advanced Tele-Genetic Counseling, Turner purportedly paid kickbacks to doctors for signed orders for cancer genomic tests, knowing they were not the patients' treating physicians or using the results to treat the patients. Also, Turner allegedly was aware that the doctors often never contacted the patients at all, according to the release.

As a result of the conspiracy, Medicare and Medicaid paid laboratories, including Crestar Labs, millions of dollars in reimbursements they were not entitled to receive, according to authorities.


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