On Thursday, December 15, a North Texan pair was charged with submitting fraudulent COVID-19 testing claims to multiple insurance agencies, as announced in an official statement by U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Leigha Simonton. According to court documents, the duo managed to allegedly get over $7 million in the scheme.
Terrance Bernard, 39 and Connie Jo Clampitt, 51 were indicted on Dec. 5 on charges of committing healthcare fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The defendants allegedly set up a scheme where Bernard would take advantage of his position as a contract lab technician in several medical clinics to gather patients’ personal information including names, addresses, dates of birth and most importantly for the scheme, insurance subscriber information. Once the information was collected, Clampitt would allegedly inform the patients’ insurers that they had COVID-19 testing performed at sophisticated diagnostic labs which resulted to be nonexistent, as were the testings.
Once the pair allegedly received the fraudulently-obtained reimbursement checks, they deposited them in bank accounts they opened for the fake laboratories, to later transfer the proceeds into personal accounts. The indictment alleges they later used the money to purchase real estate and luxury vehicles.
“Since the start of this pandemic, the Justice Department has seized over $1.2 billion in relief funds that criminals were attempting to steal, and charged over 1,500 defendants with crimes in federal districts across the country,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement.
According to the Department of Justice, pandemic-related fraud has been so rampant it made the establishment of COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force Teams comprised of prosecutors and agents from the Department of Labor Office, the Small Business Administration Office, the Department of Homeland Security Office, the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the most challenging circumstances our healthcare providers and insurers have faced in generations,” said U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton. “Schemes to financially exploit the system when providers and insurers are facing these monumental challenges must be dismantled, and those responsible must be held to account.”
After being arrested last Thursday, the defendants made their initial appearances Friday morning and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
If convicted, the pair faces up to ten years in federal prison for each count of healthcare fraud, conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and up to two years in federal prison for each count of aggravated identity theft.