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Skokie, Buffalo Grove doctors charged in Medicare fraud sweep

In Washington, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch looked on as Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced the results of a national Medicare fraud crackdown. Getty Images

Two suburban doctors have been charged with Medicare fraud after what authorities called the nation’s largest-ever Medicare fraud sweep, resulting in criminal and civil charges against 301 people, including 61 doctors, as well as nurses, physical therapists and home health providers accused of bilking the federal program and Medicaid.

Among them were Dr. Yegveny Odessky, 66, of Highland Park, who has an office in Buffalo Grove, and Dr. Zoya Kosman, 58, of Skokie, whose office is in the north suburb.

Odessky is accused of taking cash kickbacks in exchange for referring patients to a north suburban home-health agency, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago, which said Wednesday the owner of the agency cooperated with authorities, secretly recording meetings with Odessky discussing the scheme.

In a meeting recorded at his clinic on April 26, 2014, Odessky agreed to accept $300 for each Medicare beneficiary he referred to the agency, prosecutors said. He can be heard on the recording laughing and saying in Russian, “Public Aid will choke.”

Odessky is charged with violating the federal Medicare and Medicaid Anti-Kickback Statute.

Kosman is accused of submitting false medical evidence to help someone get federal disability benefits. Prosecutors said she lied about the person’s condition in documents submitted with an application for benefits.

An indictment returned in federal court in Chicago on Tuesday charges Kosman with making false statements in an application for federal benefits.

The sweep spread from southern California to south Florida and Houston to Brooklyn, New York, with arrests being made over three days. In all, the fraudulent billings allegedly totaled $900 million, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.

The defendants billed for care and prescriptions that weren’t necessary and services that weren’t provided, Lynch said.

Also among those charged was a group that controlled a network of clinics in Brooklyn that received $38 million from Medicare and Medicaid after providing patients unnecessary treatment, according to Lynch. A Detroit clinic billed Medicare for more than $36 million, even though Lynch said it was actually a front for a narcotics diversion scheme.

Such investigations happen each year, but Lynch said investigators noticed some new trends, including the use of doctors’ stolen IDs to prepare fake prescriptions.

Those charged “target real people — many of them in need of significant medical care,” Lynch said. “They promise effective cures and therapies, but they provide none.”

While the individual cases are unrelated, law enforcement agencies often coordinate the announcement of health fraud charges and arrests to send a message to fraudsters and the general public. Health-care fraud costs the government what’s estimated to be tens of billions of dollars each year.

Contributing: AP