Lab Owner Pleads Guilty to $73 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

Lucy Hicks

September 03, 2021

A lab owner in Florida pleaded guilty August 31 for his involvement in a $73 million Medicare kickback scheme.

According to a statement by the Department of Justice (DOJ), Leonel Palatnik, of Palm Beach County, Florida, admitted to his role in a "conspiracy to defraud Medicare by paying kickbacks to a telemedicine company to arrange for doctors to authorize medically unnecessary genetic testing." The scheme took advantage of temporary waivers of telehealth restrictions intended to expand access to care for Medicare beneficiaries, the statement said. Palatnik is a co-owner of Panda Conservation Group, LLC, a company that owned and operated testing laboratories in Dallas, Texas.

The DOJ announced charges against Palatnik and his alleged co-conspirator, Michael Stein, the owner of the purported consulting company 1523 Holdings LLC, on May 26 as a part of a larger takedown of COVID-19-related fraud schemes that collectively resulted in $143 million of false billings.

According to the DOJ statement, Palatnik acknowledged paying Stein in exchange for "arranging for telemedicine providers to authorize genetic testing orders for Panda's laboratories. Panda's owners and Stein entered into a sham contract for purported IT and consultation services to disguise the true purpose of these payments."

Palatnik pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to offer kickbacks and one count of paying a kickback. He faces up to 15 years in federal prison and will be sentenced November 9. The statement did not mention how Stein pleaded, and the DOJ had no additional comment on Palatnik's case.

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