On Monday, August 21, 2017, Acting United States Attorney Gregory G. Brooker announced that Sightpath Medical, TLC Vision Corporation, and former CEO James Tiffany, had agreed to pay more than $12 million to resolve kickback allegations. The United States also intervened in an underlying lawsuit against Cameron-Ehlen Group, Precision Lens, Paul Ehlen, and Jitendra Swarup.
The complaint was brought forward by a whistleblower. According to the complaint, Sightpath and Precision Lens offers intraocular lenses, ophthalmic surgical equipment and services to medical facilities. The products and services provided are primarily utilized by ophthalmologists for eye surgeries. Some of the surgeries are supported by federal payers, such Medicare.
Defendants Precision Lens, Ehlen and Sightpath Entities are accused of paying kickbacks in various forms to physicians. In the complaint, it is alleged that physicians were paid in the form of hunting, golfing, skiing, and fishing trips. It is also alleged that items of varying values were provided to physicians to encourage them to use Sightpath Entities’ and Precision Lens’ products and services.
In the settlement agreements, the United States contends that Sightpath Entities provided physicians with items of value to encourage them to utilize the company’s products and services. The actions, which extended from January 1, 2006 to January 1, 2015, resulted in the submission of false claims to the United States. The United States accuses Sightpath of entering into consulting agreements with physicians and physician practices for services that were never performer or properly tracked. This resulted in payments in excess of fair market value.
The United States further alleged that former CEO James Tiffany directed much of the conduct, specifically the actions between 2010 and 2013, when he was CEO of TLC and Sightpath. Tiffany was accused of being directly involved in setting up and partaking in some of the trips provided to physicians. The settlement settles these claims, as well as allegations brought forth by whistleblower, Kipp Fesenmaier.
For his part in the litigation, Fesenmaier is entitled to 19.5 percent of the recovered amounts. The claims resolved are allegations only. There was no determination of liability or wrongdoing.