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Florida Lab Owner Pleads Guilty to $6.9M COVID-19 False Billing Scheme

NEW YORK – A laboratory owner from Florida pleaded guilty on Thursday to a $6.9 million fraud scheme involving COVID-19 testing, according to the US Department of Justice. 

Christopher Licata, owner of Boca Raton-based Boca Toxicology, admitted to paying kickbacks and bribes to get doctors' orders for medically unnecessary tests, including genetic tests and assays for rare respiratory pathogens, and then bundling those tests with COVID-19 assays and billing Medicare for reimbursement. The lab submitted more than $6.9 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for the medically unnecessary tests, DOJ said.

Licata also bribed patient brokers to get Medicare beneficiaries and doctors' orders for genetic testing referred to his lab and then disguised the nature of the payments by entering sham agreements with the brokers, according to DOJ.

Licata pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit healthcare fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 24. He could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.