Podiatrist pleads guilty to bilking Medicare

EAST BRUNSWICK – A local podiatrist pleaded guilty last week to defrauding the Medicare program and agreed to pay more than $1.2 million as part of a civil settlement and restitution.

Ming C. Tung, 63, a township resident who practiced here and in Jersey City, entered his plea before U.S. District Senior Judge Joseph E. Irenas in Newark, admitting that between 2001 and 2005 he fraudulently billed the Medicare program for routine foot care services knowing that he was not entitled to receive payment, according to U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie’s office.

Tung would make it appear that most of his patients suffered from systemic podiatric problems, such as diabetes, which necessitated routine foot care services such as toenail clipping and foot massage.

Tung admitted that he provided other Medicare-covered patients with routine foot-care services and falsely billed Medicare as though he had provided more complex, time-consuming procedures, such as the removal of infected toenails. He also obtained reimbursements from Medicare for home visits when they were not medically necessary, Christie’s office said. Had Tung correctly billed for these claims, he would not have been entitled to any Medicare reimbursement for the services he rendered.

Tung, who pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of health-care fraud, is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 7.

He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of the plea, Tung will also pay $350,000 in criminal restitution to the Medicare Trust Fund.

Irenas allowed Tung to be free on a $250,000 bond pending sentencing. Tung also entered into a civil settlement of $868,313 for violations of the federal False Claims Act, which permits recovery of triple the amount of the damages to the government plus penalties, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Stuart A. Minkowitz, healthcare fraud coordinator in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The payment is to be made within seven days.

Tung will be excluded from participating in any federal health-care program.

In January 2006, the U.S. Attorney’s Office obtained an injunction against Tung based on the allegations of fraudulent conduct, froze more than $2 million of his assets and placed his Medicare claims into prepayment audit, pending investigation and resolution of the criminal matter. As a result of the guilty plea, that injunction will be lifted.