5 charged, 2 others plead guilty in health care fraud scheme

April 23, 2021 GMT

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Federal authorities announced charges against five people in New Jersey and Florida in what they said was a $93 million health care fraud scheme involving orthotic braces.

The U.S. attorney’s office also announced Thursday that two people connected to the scheme in New Jersey had pleaded guilty.

According to prosecutors, some of the defendants had hidden financial interests in companies that made the devices, while others owned and operated call centers that processed orders.

The call centers allegedly bribed telemedicine companies, which in turn bribed doctors to prescribe the devices for patients who didn’t need them. The companies owned by the defendants that made the devices provided them to the patients and fraudulently billed Medicare and other federal health care programs, according to a criminal complaint.

The health care programs allegedly suffered losses of more than $93 million.


Two New Jersey residents pleaded guilty Thursday by videoconference: 46-year-old Brian Herbstman of Jackson, who pleaded guilty to health care fraud conspiracy and violating anti-kickback statutes, and 48-year-old Sean Hogan of Old Bridge, who pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy. Both are scheduled for sentencing on Aug. 31.

According to prosecutors, Herbstman also obtained patient referrals for genetic cancer screening tests and accepted bribes in exchange for providing the referrals to companies that performed the tests.

Herbstman “is a devoted family man and valued member of the community who unfortunately exercised poor judgment at a difficult moment in an otherwise law-abiding life,” his attorney, Robert Stahl, said Friday. “By pleading guilty he has accepted responsibility for his conduct.”

An attorney for Hogan declined to comment.

Health fraud conspiracy charges were announced Thursday against Thomas Farese, 78, of Delray Beach, Florida; Pat Truglia, 53, of Parkland, Florida; Domenic J. Gatto Jr., 46, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; and Nicholas Defonte, 72, and Christopher Cirri, 63, both of Toms River, New Jersey.

An attorney for Cirri declined to comment Friday. Messages were left with attorneys representing Gatto, Truglia and Defonte. Attorney information wasn’t immediately available for Farese.