A nursing home psychologist previously excluded from the Medicare program over fraud allegations has pleaded guilty to new charges that he bilked the government out of another $2.5 million.
Many of the patients Michael Lonski, 71, submitted charges for were residents of skilled nursing facilities, the US Attorney’s Office for the District Connecticut said Tuesday.
Lonski is a licensed psychologist who operated a practice out of his home office in Old Greenwich, along with a colleague. Both psychologists also treated patients at nursing homes in Greenwich and Danbury and were providers for Medicare, the Connecticut Medicaid program and other healthcare programs. But it was Lonski who submitted reimbursement claims.
In pleading guilty Monday, he admitted that he billed government and commercial insurers for services that he knew were not rendered, including by billing for patients who were deceased, for dates of service when he was out of the country, for dates of service when his partner was out of the country, and for dates of service when the psychologist himself was hospitalized.
The fraudulent claims totaled more than $2.6 million, including a loss of $1.1 million to the state Medicaid program, the US Attorney’s Office announced in a press release.
No nursing homes were implicated in the scheme, and it was unclear Tuesday whether they were even aware of the submissions being filed on behalf of their patients.
This wasn’t the first time Lonski had defrauded the government while caring for seniors. In 2002, Lonski settled a federal lawsuit in New York alleging healthcare fraud offenses.
A separate Department of Justice effort to seize Lonski’s $3.5 million office property as restitution reveals the earlier charges were similar in nature. In that case, according to court documents reviewed by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, Lonski was sued for submitting “knowingly or recklessly false billings to Medicare… alleged to have included: excessive numbers of services per patient; higher levels of service than those actually provided [and] non reimbursable group therapy sessions.”
While prosecutors in Connecticut could not supply more details on that case Tuesday, New York media previously reported that Lonski’s earlier transgressions were connected to his treatment of “elderly residents of adult homes in the 1990s through his now-defunct L&L Psychological Services.”
Based on that case, Lonski was excluded from participating in the Medicare program from April 2003 to November 2007. But, according to an investigation involving the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services and its Office of the Inspector General, Lonski apparently did not learn his lesson. Less than 10 years after he was reinstated to the Medicare program, he began billing for patients who were dead and billing for an excessive amount of therapy, they alleged.
“The sheer number of days for which Lonski… sought reimbursement raises suspicion that Lonski and [his colleague] billed for services that they did not perform,” government attorneys argued in their civil forfeiture complaint. “The Lonski claims show that for a five-year period from January 1, 2014, through May 25, 2019, Lonski claimed to have provided services every single day, including weekends and holidays, except for a single day.”
Those days included times during which Customs and Border Patrol found Lonski was traveling to foreign destinations including Bermuda, Ireland and Paris. In that case, he agreed to pay $4 million in restitution for his offenses.
In the new criminal case, Lonski faces a maximum prison term of 10 years, with sentencing guidelines calling for 46 to 57 months. Sentencing is scheduled for March 10.
As part of his plea, Lonski has agreed to pay full restitution. He is currently free on bond.