Georgia man accused of scheming plan to profit from coronavirus tests

Gavel. (AJC file)

Combined ShapeCaption
Gavel. (AJC file)

A Georgia man was involved in a scheme to capitalize on the coronavirus pandemic by submitting phony claims to insurance providers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Monday.

Erik Santos, 49, of Braselton, is charged with one count of conspiring to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute and one count of conspiring to commit health care fraud. He was arrested at his home Monday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey.

“The complaint in this case describes a defendant who saw the spread of COVID-19 as nothing more than an opportunity to profit personally,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said in a press release. “As the complaint alleges, he offered kickbacks in exchange for medically unnecessary tests — including potentially hard-to-obtain COVID-19 tests — thus preying on people’s fear in order to defraud the government and make money for himself.”

According to court documents, Santos ran a marketing company. Beginning in November, he and others were part of a scheme to defraud Medicare, federal investigators allege. Santos and others would send people to companies for clinical and diagnostic testing, regardless of medical necessity, and then receive kickback payments, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Santos’ scheme aimed to submit more than $1.1 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare, according to investigators.

“While there are people going through what they are going through, you can either go bankrupt or you can prosper,” Santos said during a March 20 phone call, according to court documents.

“At a time when Americans are coming together in many different ways to help our fellow citizens make it through this crisis, it is unfathomable to think that some people, driven by personal greed, would try to take advantage of people who need help the most,” said Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta. “Though the FBI has had to adapt to doing business in this trying time, we want to make it clear that we are continuing to protect our citizens and uphold the Constitution.”

Santos was scheduled to make his first court appearance Monday afternoon.