NEWARK, N.J. – A Pennsylvania doctor and his wife were charged today for their roles in schemes to solicit and receive kickbacks and bribes in exchange for ordering genetic tests, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced today.
Yitzchok “Barry” Kurtzer, 61, and Robin Kurtzer, 60, both of Monsey, New York, are charged by indictment with various counts for participating in a scheme to solicit and receive kickbacks and bribes in exchange for ordering genetic tests. Yitzchok Kurtzer is also charged with health care fraud related to the kickback scheme. Two of Yitzchok Kurtzer’s employees, Amber Harris and Shanelyn Kennedy, have each previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the kickback scheme, and Lee Besen and Kimberly Schmidt have also each previously pleaded guilty for a related cash-for-genetic tests scheme. Sentencings for each of those defendants is pending.
According to documents filed in this case:
Yitzchok Kurtzer was a primary care physician with separate offices in the Scranton, Pennsylvania, area. Robin Kurtzer helped manage those offices. Beginning in 2018, Yitzchok Kurtzer and Robin Kurtzer solicited and received monthly cash kickbacks and bribes in exchange for collecting samples from Medicare patients and sending them for genetic tests to clinical laboratories in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The cash kickbacks ranged up to $5,000, and the Kurtzers typically accepted the cash in one of Yitzchok Kurtzer’s offices, at times behind locked doors. At one point, the Kurtzers complained that they were not getting paid enough and negotiated for higher kickbacks and bribes.
The Kurtzers were recorded receiving and discussing many of their kickback and bribe payments. After Yitzchok Kurtzer accepted a $5,000 cash kickback, he counted the money and said, “Perfect. Didn’t short me.”
The Kurtzers used their employees in the scheme, including Harris and Kennedy, who each helped collect the DNA swabs in exchange for payments to them. Robin Kurtzer was recorded admitting that Harris and Kennedy should not have to be “bribed” to do their work, but Robin Kurtzer said that she had no trouble “giving them money” as long as they produced results.
Yitzchok Kurtzer correlated genetic test swab collection to bribe and kickback payments, regardless of medical necessity. He instructed his staff to stop collecting genetic test swabs when he missed receiving a bribe and kickback payment, and he increased the volume of genetic test swabs when the kickback and bribe payments resumed. He admitted in a recording that he provided a patient false information to get the patient to agree to be swabbed for a genetic test. And unless a patient actively sought their genetic test results, Yitzchok Kurtzer failed to review or otherwise use those results.
Even as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic substantially reduced in-patient visits, the Kurtzers continued their scheme. They went from receiving hand-delivered cash kickbacks and bribes to accepting payments by wire and through a cell phone money-transfer app. Yitzchok Kurtzer also offered to pay one of his employees to collect genetic test swabs from all of his patients who lived in nursing homes.
As a result of these schemes, Medicare was billed over $1.3 million for tests generated from Yitzchok Kurtzer’s practice.
The indictment contains the following charges:
2 – 4
Violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute
5 – 7
Illegal Remunerations for Referrals to Laboratories
8 – 10
Health Care Fraud
The kickbacks, illegal remunerations, and health care fraud charged in Counts 2 through 7 and 11 are each punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison. The kickback conspiracy and Travel Act charges in Counts 1 and 8 through 10 are each punishable by a maximum of five years in prison. All 11 counts are also punishable by a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark; IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael Montanez in Newark; and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Philadelphia Regional Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Maureen R. Dixon, with the investigation leading to the charges. She also thanked the FBI Scranton Field Office, FBI Philadelphia Division, and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office for their assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua L. Haber of the Health Care Fraud Unit and Acting Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal.
The charges and allegations against Yitzchok Kurtzer and Robin Kurtzer are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.