ATLANTA- Today, Attorney General Sam Olens announced that Georgia has joined with other states and the federal government to settle United States et al., ex rel. John Slowik v. Olympus America, Inc., et al., 10-5994 (District of New Jersey). The whistleblower lawsuit alleged that Olympus, and certain of its subsidiaries, paid illegal kickbacks to healthcare providers. Specifically, the civil lawsuit alleged that Olympus used improper financial incentives to induce doctors and hospital executives to buy a wide ranging array of its endoscopes and other surgical equipment (equipment primarily employed in the course of numerous hospital procedures), and to thereby unlawfully increase sales and gain market share. Georgia will receive $2,378,244.27 under the settlement.

The Anti-Kickback Statute is a federal regulation, which prohibits the offering, solicitation or acceptance of any type of gift or remuneration in exchange for rewarding referrals for federal healthcare program business. The law was enacted in order to eliminate Medicare and Medicaid fraud and abuse. As is stands today, the consequences for violating the Anti-Kickback Statute are steep. Criminal penalties can include fines up to $25,000 and a five-year prison term per kickback while civil penalties can cost as much as $50,000 per kickback in addition to three times the amount of damages sustained by the government. Furthermore, violators can also be excluded from federal healthcare programs.

Attorney General Olens said, “Surgical decisions, such as which equipment to use during delicate surgical procedures, should be based on impartial medical expertise, and not influenced by the payment or receipt of kickbacks. This case reflects my office’s continued commitment to investigating allegations of Medicaid fraud and abuse and litigating those cases when necessary to represent the best interests of Georgia taxpayers.”

The State settlements were negotiated by a team of States led by representatives from the Office of the Attorneys General for the states of California, Delaware, Indiana, New York, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.