Healthcare fraud is a crime that costs the government, the economy and taxpayers millions of dollars each year. Based on this fact alone, it is understandable why this type of white collar crime is so aggressively prosecuted. In their zeal to apprehend the real masterminds behind healthcare fraud, however, innocent people are sometimes swept up in the fray by overzealous prosecutors.
This is exactly what happened in the case of Philip Salvati, a longtime executive with Abbott Ambulance Company. This Rotary Club president and Boy Scout leader was the Medicare liaison for his employer for about ten years. He was also the Vice President of his company, giving him access to a great deal of information. Nonetheless, after years of dedicated service, Salvati experienced serious differences with the president of the company and eventually resigned his position in 1995.
About two years later in 1997, Abbott Ambulance Company came under investigation by the government due to a claim filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri’s by the president of one of its chief competitors, Gateway Ambulance Company’s Bob Goeggel. After initially working together with Goeggel, the government undertook its own separate investigation. In the course of that investigation, the government targeted Salvati, believing him to be a disgruntled former employee who might harbor a wealth of information that would provide additional strength to their case.
Salvati was approached by FBI agents in 1997. He was lead by those agents to believe that they were in possession of significant evidence that pointed to Abbott’s guilt in the case they were building against the company. As a result, Salvati spoke with FBI agents on a number of occasions without consulting with an attorney prior to these sessions. Another aspect that fueled Salvati’s thoughts when agreeing to speak with FBI agents was his belief that the information he shared would inure to his benefit and that he would be rewarded by receiving substantial leniency in regards to the government’s prosecution of the case.
Unfortunately, Salvati was mistaken and was eventually charged for his role in Abbott’s defrauding of the federal government. In 2000, after three years of extensive and far-reaching investigations, the government handed down a 39 count indictment against Salvati detailing his role in Abbott’s fraudulent behavior. In addition to other charges, Salvati — along with other top executives at Abbott Ambulance — was accused of manipulating Medicare billing codes in an effort to bilk the government out of money.
While it might seem like an open-and-shut case — after all, it would be assumed that a top executive of a company who is in charge of such duties must know if fraud is occurring during his tenure with the organization — was, in fact, not so open and shut at all. Due to the expert legal representation Salvati received, he was found not guilty on all counts brought against him. A key factor in the case was the qui tam action brought up by Goeggel in which he stood to receive significant monetary gains if the case resulted in a recovery of the millions of dollars that were allegedly lost.