Millennium Laboratories Investigated by Grand Jury
A federal grand jury in Boston is investigating Millennium Laboratories of San Diego over allegations of health care fraud and intimidation of former employees. According to a report by Reuters, five grand jury subpoenas seeking records on Millennium were reviewed by the news organization. Four witnesses who testified before the grand jury told Reuters they […]
A federal grand jury in Boston is investigating Millennium Laboratories of San Diego over allegations of health care fraud and intimidation of former employees. According to a report by Reuters, five grand jury subpoenas seeking records on Millennium were reviewed by the news organization. Four witnesses who testified before the grand jury told Reuters they testified that Millennium was getting doctors to order unnecessary urine tests and charging excessive fees to Medicare and private insurers. Millennium has denied those accusations in lawsuits. According to witnesses, the company’s general counsel Martin Price showed a former employee in a body bag as part of a PowerPoint presentation during a national sales meeting in January during which Price described Millennium’s success against its adversaries. One grand jury witness, former Millennium employee Jodie Strain, said grand jurors gasped when the body-bag image was projected onto a wall during her testimony Oct. 3. She said the toe tag identified the corpse as Ed Zicari, a former regional manager Millennium was suing. Zicari and Strain are currently pursuing suits against Millennium for wrongful termination and other claims. Howard Appel, Millennium’s president, told Reuters that the company is cooperating fully with investigators and that it has done nothing wrong. Appel described Zicari and Strain as disgruntled former employees who were fired for cause, not for questioning company practices. According to the Reuters report, grand jury witness said most of their testimony focused on the company’s sales practices, which included aggressive pitches to pain clinics to order varieties of urine tests even when they were not needed, at up to $1,600 per test. Urine tests can show doctors whether their patients are taking extra pain drugs and whether they are taking their prescribed drugs. The federal investigation is being led by Susan Winkler, former chief of the health care fraud unit for the U.S. attorney in Boston. Winkler reportedly signed the Millennium subpoenas and questioned the witnesses before the grand jury. The urine drug testing industry has taken off as the number of pain drug prescriptions in the United States grew from 30 million to 180 million a year over the last two decades, raising demand for monitoring, Appel said. The burgeoning industry has spawned two previously disclosed prosecutions and scores of suits and countersuits by companies accusing each other of wrongdoing, Reuters noted. In March, Calloway Laboratories of Woburn, Mass., paid $20 million to settle a Massachusetts state Medicaid case accusing it of paying kickbacks for unnecessary screening. Three Calloway officials were sentenced to four years’ probation. And in 2010, Ameritox, based in Baltimore, paid $16.3 million to settle similar claims.