Judge sentences Clive medical equipment store owner to 3 years in prison for fraud

Also must pay nearly $350,000 for false claims, nearly $900,000 in civil settlement

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A Clive medical equipment store owner, convicted of submitting false documents to the U.S. Attorney’s Office during an investigation, was sentenced last week in federal court to over three years in prison.

James O’Connor, 64, of West Des Moines, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court last June to one count of making and using false documents. A plea agreement shows O’Connor, who operated O’Connor Medical Supply, Inc., in Clive, admitted that he provided a false document to federal prosecutors in conjunction with a civil False Claims Act investigation. O’Connor admitted to “upcoding” — the act of providing a false document intended to conceal that he previously submitted a claim to Medicare for a more complex and expensive orthotic device than what he actually provided.

Court documents show an employee told investigators that O’Connor was forging doctors’ signatures, who prescribed certain orthotic devices such as knee and ankle braces, by cutting, copying and pasting the signatures from one document to another. This made it appear as if the doctors had prescribed these more expensive devices, according to court documents.

U.S. District Senior Judge Linda Reade during Friday’s sentencing pointed out that O’Connor’s criminal conduct was “sophisticated,” and she found the crime was one of “greed, deception, and lying.” She denied O’Connor’s request for a sentence of one day, noting that a substantial aggravating factor was forging signatures of doctors.

Reade sentenced O’Connor to 37 months in federal prison and he was ordered to make $349,953 in restitution to Medicare and Medicaid programs.

O’Connor also agreed to a settlement to resolve a civil False Claims Act investigation. He paid $898,523 to resolve these allegations.

“Our Office continues to encourage citizens to report fraud in government health care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid,” U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan said in the statement after the sentencing. “This conviction and sentence demonstrate that citizen complaints are taken seriously, and absolute honesty is required during our office’s investigation of those complaints of fraud.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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