NewsLocal NewsInvestigations

Actions

Feds crack down on "free" DNA cancer tests in Florida

Nationwide bust worth $2.1 billion, feds say
Posted: 3:20 PM, Sep 27, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-08 15:05:37-04
Feds crack down on "free" DNA cancer tests in Florida

Companies touting these so-called "free" genetic testing got a pricey dose of reality from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

In a national take down worth more than $2 billion, federal investigators along with the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General say they busted dozens of genetic testing labs accused of duping medicare recipients in a scheme that "capitalized on fears," according to a press release issued by the DOJ Friday.

The schemes involved "free" cancer screening that wasn't free and, often, didn't provide patients with any results.

Last month , we first told you how it works after Tammy Rose of West Palm Beach, described to us how her 83-year-old mom got a call from a telemarketer and fell for the pitch.

"She was to swab one cheek corner and then swab the other cheek corner and put them in separate bags and send it back to the facility," she told us.

RELATED: We all pay the price for 'free' DNA cancer screening

Senior advocates across the state have been fielding complaints from seniors concerned they're being targeted by telemarketers. At the Southwest Florida Area Agency on Aging, community manager Camilita Aldridge has spent months warning seniors about fraudulent claims of free testing. The scheme, which targets Medicare and Medicaid recipients, will pitch victims over the phone, at health fairs, parks or senior centers the chance to learn if they're at risk of cancer by taking a simple swab test.

Each willing participant can be worth tens of thousands of dollars to thieves who bill the government for the medically unnecessary tests.

"We've seen medicare being billed anywhere from 10 to upwards of $30,000 for these tests, one DNA test," Aldridge told us last month..

According to the DOJ, the latest bust resulted in charges against 35 people nationwide including doctors. Several in Florida included the owners of marketing and telemedicine companies. The alleged scheme involved the payment of illegal kickbacks and bribes by testing labs in exchange for the names of Medicare recipients. Some of those charged, according to the feds, allegedly paid doctors to prescribe genetic cancer testing without seeing the patient or only talking to them briefly over the phone.

"I'm angry that my mother was targeted," said Tammy Rose. "Someone's getting rich off this and they need to be in prison."

Now investigators want you to know, some are finally paying the price.

webad-mornings-480x360-a.jpg

Watch every morning for breaking weather and traffic news

Email the Contact 5 Investigators
Share your news tips and story ideas with WPTV's investigations team.