Federal Judge Issues $487 Million Judgement Against MN Company
St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - A federal judge has entered a $487 million judgment against a Minnesota company and its owner.
A news release issued by the US Attorney's Office in Minnesota indicates the judgment is tied to a federal civil trial during which the jury concluded that Bloomington-based Precision Lens and owner Paul Ehlen violated the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Statute by paying kickbacks to ophthalmic surgeons in exchange for the use of the company's products in cataract surgeries reimbursed by Medicare. The jury determined that nearly 65,000 false claims were submitted to Medicare as a result of the scheme and resulted in more than $43 million in damages for the federal health program.
The evidence presented during the trial by the Civil Division of the US Attorney's Office for Minnesota alleged Precision Lens provided kickbacks to physicians, often in the form of trips that included high-end skiing, fishing, golfing, hunting, sporting, and entertainment vacations. The list of "kickback trips" included the Master's golf tournament in Georgia, the college football national championship game in Florida, and Broadway shows in New York.
The judgment entered by US District Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright is based on a civil penalty of at least $5000 per false claim and three times the amount of damages sustained by the government. The news release says the statutory penalty owed by the company exceeds $358 million and the trebled damages incurred by Medicare totaled more than $131 million.