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Florida Lab Owner Receives 7 Years in Prison for Role in Kickback Scheme

NEW YORK — The US Department of Justice said this week that a Florida laboratory owner has been sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for his role in a kickback scheme.

According to the DOJ, the scheme took advantage of temporary amendments to telehealth restrictions enacted during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic that were intended to expand access to care for Medicare recipients by making it easier for them to receive medical care from home.

In September, Leonel Palatnik of Aventura, a co-owner of Panda Conservation Group, pleaded guilty to conspiring with other co-owners of the company and Michael Stein, the owner of 1523 Holdings, to pay illegal kickbacks to Stein in exchange for his arranging telemedicine providers to authorize medically unnecessary cancer and cardiovascular genetic testing orders for Panda’s laboratories.

In exchange, Panda gave these providers access to beneficiary information and the opportunity to bill for purported telehealth consultations with Medicare recipients, which often did not take place.

Palatnik this week was sentenced to 82 months in prison. The case was brought as part of the COVID-19 Health Care Fraud coordinated law enforcement action in May against 14 defendants in seven judicial districts.