Bustleton ambulance owner sentenced to federal prison

Feda Kuran wasn’t the most original criminal in Northeast Philadelphia, but federal judges don’t generally give credit for originality anyway.

So it should have come as no surprise when U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn Jr. on Thursday ordered Kuran to serve more than five years in federal prison for using her Bustleton-based ambulance company to defraud the country’s Medicare program of more than $2 million. The feds have been investigating and prosecuting scores of Philadelphia-area private ambulance company operators for several years for orchestrating essentially the same fraudulent money-making scheme. Grand juries have indicted owners and employees of at least nine of those companies, including Brotherly Love Ambulance Inc., which was based at 2200 Michener St. in the Bustleton Business Center. Kuran was its founder and president.

Typically, the scheme works like this: a company will recruit patients who are registered Medicare beneficiaries and who need medical transportation regularly (such as dialysis patients). The company will transport those patients to their appointments by ambulance, then bill Medicare for the service.

Problem is, many of those patients are ineligible for ambulance coverage under Medicare because the government-sponsored health plan covers ambulance transport only for patients who cannot travel safely by other means. To circumvent the restriction, ambulance operators will falsify patient conditions on reimbursement forms. In Brotherly Love’s case, company officials also falsified the actual services provided. That is, some patients drove themselves to their appointments, but Brotherly Love reported that they had been taken by ambulance. Other times, patients took private vehicles or walked, but Brotherly Love submitted Medicare claims anyway.

Kuran’s company, in typical fashion, also paid illegal kickbacks to patients in exchange for their continued patronage.

Kuran, a Philadelphia resident, pleaded guilty on April 17 to healthcare fraud and violating the federal Anti-Kickback Act. Yohn sentenced her to serve 64 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. She also must pay more than $2 million in restitution to Medicare.

On the heels of her sentencing hearing, federal prosecutors also on Thursday announced a new grand jury indictment of two former Brotherly Love employees, including Kuran’s son, as well as four of the company’s clients who allegedly took kickbacks from the company for their patronage and for referring other potential clients.

Thael Kuran, 22, and Fitzroy Brown, 37, both of Philadelphia, were charged with conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and making false statements in healthcare matters.

Meanwhile, Craig Brown, 46; Derrick Brown, 44; William Connor, 61; and Keisha Regusters, 37, were each charged with accepting illegal kickbacks.

Brotherly Love’s manager, Neel Jackson, was previously charged and pleaded guilty to crimes connected with the scheme. His sentencing is pending. ••