A Chicago-area physician agreed to pay $700,000 to settle a civil whistleblower lawsuit alleging that he, his ex-wife and the successors to companies he founded falsely billed Medicare and Medicaid, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announced Tuesday.
Robert Tetik, M.D., founder and owner of EMSCO Billing Services, which provided emergency room staffing and billing services for metropolitan Chicago hospitals, settled the False Claims Act lawsuit brought by two former employees. The settlement resolves a suit brought by former EMSCO billing supervisor Linda Trombetta in 1996 and another filed by former billing supervisor Linda Freeman in 1999 alleging deliberate billing fraud dating to 1989.
The government joined the suits in 2001 and 2002, which were later consolidated into one case.
The settlement amount will be shared among Medicare, the state of Illinois, the state of Maine and the two whistleblowers. EMSCO had a client hospital in Lewiston, Maine, for which it provided ER physicians and billing services that allegedly overbilled Maine Medicaid.
Chicago lawyer Steven Cohen, who represented the whistleblowers, said EMSCO and Tetik "bilked Medicare and Medicaid (out of) tens of millions of dollars . . . until 1999 when the federal government put them on notice that they were being investigated. It was a systematic fraudulent billing scheme." In the settlement, Tetikdenied the allegations and said he settled to avoid costly litigation.
Last year the companies that bought Tetik'sEMSCO in 1994 paid $1.1 million to resolve similar claims that they overbilled Medicare by charging for a higher level of services than those actually delivered. Tetik's ex-wife, Bonnie Tetik, a co-founder and former co-owner of EMSCO, remains a defendant in the same whistleblower suit facing similar allegations.No trial date has been set.