Liberty Ambulance lawsuit takes another turn

Jacksonville-based company accused of kickbacks, systematic false claims

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - New information is coming out about a lawsuit against a local ambulance service for allegedly overcharging the federal government for Medicare dollars after an ex-employee with that company came forward and said they were told to do this.

The lawsuit was originally against a few ambulance companies and multiple local hospitals accused of knowingly over-billing the federal government. None of the parties said they were guilty of anything, but all decided to settle the matter out of court, except Liberty Ambulance Service who has decided to fight the claims in federal court.

The lawsuit was first filed by an ex-employee of Liberty on behalf of the federal government in what's called a qui-tam lawsuit. It said Liberty intentionally over-billed and transported patients who didn't need it, simply to get Medicare dollars.

Joe Raisor, an ex-employees of Liberty said employees were told to do this and those who refused said they were fired for not complying.

"We were told how to write medical reports on patients and we began to ask questions because we were told to make it where a patient has to require a stretcher so they could use the service. I basically got in a discussion with a supervisor saying that's basically falsifying medical reports and I wasn't going to do that," Raisor said.

The president of Liberty said these allegations are false but that there were some errors, like in every company, but no intentional fraud. He also said the ex-employees, who the federal government got their information from, are either not understanding the process or simply unreliable.

"This is a difficult convoluted business. When we train these people we train them to write their run reports, write what they see, to make sure that if this patient meets the criteria for treatment and for payment that that is written in the patient care report," Michael Assaf, president of Liberty Ambulance Service, said.

New details have also come out about the medic who filed the lawsuit, Shawn Pelletier, who may have some credibility issues himself.

News4Jax originally aired the story of Pelletier's lawsuit in March. Pelletier's ex-wife saw the story and was interested because the suit was filed before they were divorced.

Court documents show the Pelletier never told his ex-wife that he was suing a company for millions of dollars, so she's suing to freeze any assets from the suit which could be as much as $1.5 million.

The lawsuit said that he lied about the suit during their divorce proceedings, but Pelletier testified, under oath, that he had not filed anything and was only a witness in a federal criminal action.

Pelletier's attorney in the divorce said that because it's ongoing litigation, they have no comment.
 

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