NEW YORK – The US Department of Justice said Thursday that a California woman pleaded guilty to a $359 million respiratory pathogen panel (RPP) testing fraud scheme.
According to the government, Lourdes Navarro of Glendale and her co-conspirator Imran Shams submitted $359 million in false RPP testing claims to Medicare, the Health Resources and Services Administration COVID-19 Uninsured Program, and a private health insurance company.
The government said that between June 2020 and April 2022, Navarro and Shams obtained nasal swab specimens from residents and staff at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and rehabilitation facilities and students and staff at primary and secondary schools in order to screen for COVID-19 infections. They then ran unnecessary RPPs on these specimens at Matias Clinical Laboratory, dba Health Care Providers Laboratory (HCPL), where Navarro was a manager, and submitted $359 million in claims for that testing, receiving roughly $54 million in reimbursement.
Navarro pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and wire fraud. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 23, 2024, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Shams previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 9, 2024.