A Yuba City doctor has received a five-month sentence in federal prison for his role in defrauding the Medicare trust fund of more than $1 million.
Dr. Irving J. Schwartz, 68, also was ordered to pay restitution of $593,429.81 to the Medicare trust fund and to forfeit $55,800 in kickbacks he received for his role in the fraudulent scheme.
Schwartz must spend five months in a halfway house and spend at least three years on parole upon his release, according to court records.
U.S. District Judge Marilyn L. Huff sentenced Schwartz on Monday in San Diego. She chastised Schwartz, saying “he should have known better” and reminding him that these types of schemes take valuable government resources away from elderly patients who actually need expensive medical equipment.
Schwartz was one of five defendants linked to the $1.3 million scam, said Shireen Becker, assistant U.S. attorney.
Becker said Schwartz made the conspiracy possible.
“Each played a different role, but (Schwartz) was the only with a medical license, and you need a medical perception to get those services,” Becker told the Appeal-Democrat on Tuesday.
Schwartz pleaded guilty in January to a single count of conspiracy to receive health care kickbacks.
The general practitioner admitted writing at least 186 bogus prescriptions for power wheelchairs between July 2007 and September 2008, mostly in El Centro. The doctor pocketed $300 for each phony claim and admitted receiving more than $55,000 in kickbacks and bribes, officials have said.
In one case, prosecutors said, Schwartz wrote two power wheelchair prescriptions for a husband and wife in El Centro. Four years after Medicare paid for the expensive equipment, the power wheelchairs were still wrapped in the original plastic covering and sat unused in the couple’s home — except during Christmas when one wheelchair was used as a Christmas tree stand. The husband and wife were both able to walk without difficulty, and they told federal agents they never asked for the costly equipment, never needed it, and never used it.
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said Schwartz “abused his position” as a doctor.
“He knew it was illegal to write false and fraudulent prescriptions, yet he purposefully engaged in criminal activity in order to line his own pockets at the expense of the Medicare program and the American taxpayer,” Duffy said in a statement.
Schwartz was facing a maximum sentence of five years behind bars and was ordered to surrender to the Federal Bureau of Prisons by Sept. 27, according to court records.
Becker said she believed the state Medical Board plans to investigate Schwartz. A phone call to the Medical Board was not returned on Tuesday.
Schwartz opened his practice in Yuba City in 2007 on Queens Avenue.