Arlington, VA

A 29-year-old Arlington resident has pleaded guilty to a multi-million dollar healthcare fraud.

Federal prosecutors charged Onkur Lal with bilking Medicaid, Medicare and the TRICARE military health care system out of $3.5 million by submitting fraudulent bills for non-existent prescriptions while working at a trio of local pharmacies.

Prosecutors say Lal conspired with the owner of the pharmacies in carrying out the fraud from 2014 to 2019. After the guilty plea, Lal now faces up to five years in federal prison.

More from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia:

An Arlington man pleaded guilty yesterday to his role in a conspiracy to commit health care fraud that resulted in losses of over $3.5 million.

According to court documents, Onkur Lal, 29, worked in various roles at MedEx Pharmacy, MedEx Health Pharmacy, and Royal Care Pharmacy, which were all owned and operated by the same individual. From around 2014 to around 2019, Lal conspired with the owner and others in a number of different fraudulent schemes to defraud health care benefit programs, including TRICARE, Medicare, Virginia Medicaid, and Maryland Medicaid. Lal took part in a number of fraudulent schemes, including generating false prescriptions, billing health insurance companies for prescriptions that were never filled, and billing patients’ health care benefit programs for numerous high cost medications that he and his co-conspirators knew were not prescribed and/or never received.

Lal and his conspirators also submitted false invoices under the names of other pharmacies, in an attempt to circumvent audits. Further, Lal and another co-conspirator fraudulently posed as pharmacists by elevating their title and credentials within the pharmacy’s prescription software system. Lal and his co-conspirator then used these elevated titles to verify prescriptions, which they then submitted to health care benefit programs and pharmaceutical suppliers for payment. The various schemes resulted in health care benefit programs losing more than $3.5 million.

Lal is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 21, 2021, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Maureen R. Dixon, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); James A. Dawson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division; and Dermot F. O’Reilly, Deputy Inspector General for Investigations with the Defense Criminal Investigative Services, made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton accepted the plea.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Monika Moore, Carina A. Cuellar, and Jamar K. Walker are prosecuting the case.

Flickr photo by Joe Gratz

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Morning Notes

Trash Collection Delays — “Due to truck breakdowns, some residential trash/recycling routes were not completed yesterday and today. If your trash and/or recycling carts have not been emptied, please leave them at the curb for collection.” [Arlington County]

BLM Event Planned on Saturday — The group Arlington for Justice is holding a March for Black Lives on Saturday from 4-6 p.m. The event will start at the Charles Drew Community Center in Green Valley (3500 23rd Street S.). [Facebook]

Pro-School Opening Group Planning Rally — The group Arlington Parents for Education is planning a rally in support of opening Northern Virginia schools in the fall. The event is planned from 9-10 a.m. Saturday at Arlington Public Schools headquarters (2100 Washington Blvd). “Wear green. Social distance and wear masks. Bring banners and friends & families who support this cause,” the group says. [Twitter]

Marymount Offers to Host Int’l Students — Marymount University is currently planning to bring students back to campus in the fall, including international students. With Immigration and Customs Enforcement not allowing international students to enter the country if their school is operating entirely online, Marymount is also offering to host international students from other schools. [Press Release]

Arlington Ranks High for Single Homeownership — A new set of rankings from the website SmartAsset puts Arlington at No. 25 for places “where singles are increasingly choosing to buy over rent.” [SmartAsset]

Startup CEO Facing SEC Lawsuit, Too — “Former Trustify CEO Danny Boice is accused of spending millions of investors’ dollars on private jet flights, vacations, jewelry and mortgage payments on a beach house as part of what’s alleged to be an $18.5 million fraudulent scheme, according to a lawsuit the Securities and Exchange Commission filed Friday against both Boice and Trustify Inc.” [Washington Business Journal]

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A once high-flying Arlington startup is now at the center of a federal fraud case.

Trustify, a Crystal City-based technology firm that provided an online marketplace for private investigations, went bankrupt last year. Just two years prior to that, the company moved into a swanky new office and was touted by the governor’s office for its plan to create 184 new jobs in Arlington.

Now, federal prosecutors are charging CEO and co-founder Danny Boice with investment fraud, saying he bilked investors out of millions of dollars while overstating the company’s financial performance.

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia:

The CEO and co-founder of Trustify Inc. (Trustify), a privately-held technology company founded in 2015 and based in Arlington, Virginia, was charged in an indictment unsealed today for his alleged role in a fraud scheme resulting in millions of dollars of losses to investors.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Assistant Director in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

Daniel Boice, 41, of Alexandria, Virginia, was charged with five counts of wire fraud, one count of securities fraud, and two counts of money laundering.

The indictment alleges that, beginning in 2015, Boice fraudulently solicited investments in Trustify, a privately-held technology start-up company that connected customers with private investigators.  Boice allegedly raised approximately $18.5 million from over 90 investors by, among other things, falsely overstating Trustify’s financial performance.  The indictment also alleges that Boice made false statements to investors about the amount of investor funds that he would personally receive, while diverting a substantial amount of the investor money to his own benefit.

The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The FBI’s Washington Field Office is investigating the case.  The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission provided assistance and is also filing a civil complaint against the defendant for related conduct.  Trial Attorney Blake Goebel of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Carlberg of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.  The department would also like to thank the Virginia State Corporation Commission for its assistance.

Individuals who believe they may be a victim in this case should contact the Victim Witness Services Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at 703-299-3700 for more information.

Trustify co-founder Jennifer Mellon, who was also married to Boice, received a federal appointment as the company went belly-up. She is not named in the indictment.

In an ARLnow profile in 2017, Boice discussed why the internet was great for the private investigation business, saying that it “provides the perfect catalyst for puffing up your Facebook profile or LinkedIn or lying about not being in a relationship when you’re on Tinder, all those things.”

“The internet makes a great accelerator for dishonesty,” said Boice.

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Morning Notes

Man Arrested After Door Incident at DCA — “A passenger on a flight operated by Frontier Airlines was taken into custody at Reagan National Airport Saturday, after allegedly using the emergency slide to exit the airplane, officials said.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Metrobus Rides Are Free, For Now — “To help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, Metrobus riders will be required to board using the rear doors and will not have to tap their fare cards, according to a letter sent to employees Sunday.
The change, which begins Tuesday, means rides essentially are free.” [Washington Post]

Don’t Flush Wipes Down the Toilet — From Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey: “Do NOT put wipes, paper towels etc in the toilet! They severely damage water treatment.” [Twitter, CNN]

County Trying to Help Small Businesses — “To mitigate some of the challenges and hardships experienced by small businesses as a result of COVID-19 related closures and modifications, Arlington County is finding new ways to reach out to business owners with counsel, resources and other options.” [Arlington County]

County Offers Help with Utility Bills — “If you are struggling to pay a County utility bill (water/sewer/refuse) at this time, please call the DES Customer Contact Center at 703-228-5000, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. You may be eligible for special payment arrangements without accrual of additional late fees.” [Twitter]

Coronavirus Fraud Task Force Formed — “In response to the increased threat of fraud presented by the coronavirus, federal and Virginia state law enforcement leaders announced today the formation of the Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force.” [Press Release]

Marymount Mulls Commencement Alternatives — “This Wednesday, Marymount University announced to students, faculty and staff that the online-only class period that started this week will be extended through the end of the spring semester, including final exams. It was also decided that the traditional commencement ceremonies scheduled for May 2020 would be canceled.” [Press Release]

Overnight Lane Closures in Rosslyn — “N Lynn St, SB Lee Hwy and the ramps to and from I-66 in Rosslyn will see overnight work requiring lane closures or full closures Mon night 3/23 – Thu night 3/26 in relation to the Lynn St Esplanade project.” [VDOT, Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Lopez’s Dream Act Passes House — “In a landmark session, the Virginia House of Delegates today voted for the first time to approve HB 1547, a bill which would expand in-state tuition eligibility to undocumented students at Virginia’s public colleges and universities. The bill, also known as the Virginia Dream Act, was introduced by Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) and passed after many years of advocacy and hard work.” [Press Release]

One-Time Arlington Startup Founder Convicted — “A jury convicted CommuniClique founder and former CEO Andy Powers of six out of eight counts Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The jury found Powers guilty on three counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud, according to court documents… Powers was based for years in Reston and Arlington before moving to Los Angeles in August 2018 as the head of what he billed as a communications and tech platform.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Funding for Local Startup — “The Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) today announced that CIT GAP Funds has invested in Arlington, VA-based HyperQube, a cyber range as a service offering that enables enterprises to quickly and easily build an exact copy of any IT infrastructure.” [Globe Newswire via Potomac Tech Wire]

FYI Tipsters: We Can’t Open Nextdoor Links — Here at ARLnow, we appreciate everyone who emails us or sends us anonymous tips about possible stories. Recently, tipsters have started frequently sending us anonymous tips that link to a post on Nextdoor. The problem is: Nextdoor is a private, neighborhood-based social network and we can’t open the links. Please send us screenshots of posts instead.

Nearby: Falls Church Fire Cause — “Yesterday’s house fire at 400 S. Oak Street was accidental. ‘It’s not confirmed, but the cause could be a space heater plugged into an electrical power strip,’ said [fire official Henry] Lane. ‘If so, this is part of a bad national trend. Power strips cannot handle the demands of a space heater. People should plug them directly into an outlet.’ The damage to the property is valued at $150,000.” [City of Falls Church]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

No Coronavirus in N. Va. So Far — “UPDATE: Tests came back negative on a second Northern Virginia resident suspected of having the novel coronavirus.” [Twitter]

HQ2 Search Was Intended to Extract Handouts — “When Elon Musk secured $1.3 billion from Nevada in 2014 to open a gigantic battery plant, Jeff Bezos noticed. In meetings, the Amazon.com Inc. chief expressed envy for how Musk had pitted five Western states against one another in a bidding war for thousands of manufacturing jobs; he wondered why Amazon was okay with accepting comparatively trifling incentives.” [Bloomberg]

Todd Hitt’s Path to Fraud — “Todd Hitt had never worked for the family company. He’d built spec houses around the same North Arlington neighborhoods where he’d grown up, but according to a court document, his homebuilding business had collapsed… now solidly into midlife, Hitt suddenly seemed eager to leave his fingerprints on the Washington landscape.” [Washingtonian]

Ballston Homicide Investigation Update — An update on last month’s homicide in Ballston, from an Arlington County Police spokeswoman: “The homicide investigation remains a top priority of the department with detectives continuing to process evidence, interview witnesses and follow-up on investigate leads. At this time, there is no new information to provide regarding the investigation. Arlington County Crime Solvers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for tips leading to the arrest of a suspect. Report tips anonymously by calling the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at ‪1-866-411-TIPS (8477).”

Virginia’s Favorite Valentine’s Candy — Virginia’s favorite Valentine’s Day candy is conversation hearts, followed by heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, according to a candy website. [CandyStore.com]

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Morning Notes

Scooters May Be Allowed on Arlington Sidewalks — “The Board voted unanimously to advertise a public hearing at the Nov. 16, 2019 County Board Meeting to consider proposed regulations of shared mobility devices. The proposed revisions include allowing the [scooters] to be used on County streets, sidewalks and multi-use trails and putting in place a permit fee structure for private companies offering the devices. During the pilot program, the devices have been prohibited on County sidewalks.” [Arlington County]

Clarendon Cafe Rebrands as ‘Three Whistles’ — “CoworkCafe founder Ramzy Azar rebranded the space this week. In addition to a new name, Three Whistles (2719 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia) has a new look and a new menu. Azar expects to roll out a menu full of Mediterranean small plates in the next few weeks. He says sharable dishes help create the feeling of a gathering place.” [Eater]

Arlington Man Sentenced for Gun Smuggling — “An Arlington man was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for his role in the trafficking of firearms to his native country of Honduras. According to court documents, in October 2018, Chris Rodriguez, 57, attempted to smuggle a firearm and 247 rounds of ammunition out of the United States, concealed in a bucket of roofing tar destined for Honduras.” [U.S. DOJ]

‘Verizon Site’ Building OKed — “Crystal City’s Verizon site will be redeveloped with a 19-story apartment tower within walking distance of Metro that will include 12 affordable housing units… The [County] Board voted unanimously to approve the vacation of a portion of the right-of-way for Old South Eads Street, a rezoning and site plan amendment for the proposed redevelopment.” [Arlington County]

Amazon Avoids Donating to Arlington Pols — “Amazon.com Inc. just sent $23,000 in campaign contributions to a total of 26 Virginia lawmakers, resuming its political giving in the state for the first time in months as a crucial statehouse election draws near… it only sent checks to six lawmakers in Northern Virginia (and did not send money to a single politician representing Arlington).” [Washington Business Journal]

DMV Select Staff Fights Fraud  — “Three members of [the Commissioner of Revenue’s DMV Select office] staff (Isaac Kateregga, Ahmad Abdalla and supervisor Michelle Neves) recently were honored by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles in Richmond. They were presented with ‘Fraud Busters’ awards for their work in disrupting efforts to commit misdeeds… [involving] title fraud.” [InsideNova]

Reminder: Arlington Restaurant Week Kicking Off — “Arlington Restaurant Week, organized by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, will run from October 21-28. Diners can visit a number of Arlington restaurants offering special menu items at discounted prices.” [ARLnow, Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

Last Week of School — The 2018-2019 school year is concluding this week for Arlington Public Schools. Today is the last day of school for high schools, while Friday is the last day of school for middle and elementary schools. [Arlington Public Schools]

Park Service Advances Boathouse Plan — “Plans to establish a community boathouse on the Potomac River in Arlington just passed a major milestone. The National Park Service completed its Environmental Assessment (EA) with a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), which sets up the project to move forward.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

State of the County Address — “Christian Dorsey began his State of the County address by thanking the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the Arlington business community for their partnership ‘on specific issues from the transient occupancy tax, to dedicated funding for the Metro, to helping us put our best foot forward in the competition for  Amazon’s HQ2.'” [Press Release]

Arlington Public Safety Awards — “Following the State of the County address, awards were presented to honor Arlington County’s public safety personnel…  Stories of their heroic actions include two firefighters rescuing a person trapped inside a vehicle that was fully submerged in water, a detective dismantling a large, local cocaine trafficking organization with limited investigative leads, and a police officer saving two unresponsive passengers in an overturned, burning vehicle on the roadway.” [Press Release]

Fraud Alert from Arlington Police — “The Arlington County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office are warning the public about a telephone scam that uses the threat of arrest to extort money from potential victims.” [Arlington County]

Metro Studying Second Rosslyn Metro Station — “After decades of discussion, Metro kicked off a study this week of a new, second station at Rosslyn and other changes that could overhaul the way trains on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines run throughout the system.” [WTOP]

ACPD: No Plans for ‘Mass Deportation’ — “The Arlington County Police Department called the plan ‘political’ and said they have no intention on working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to fulfill [President] Trump’s mass deportation plan. The Fairfax County Police Department said it doesn’t participate with ICE on civil enforcement either.” [Fox 5]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

First Debate in Prosecutor Race — “In a contentious series of exchanges that marked their first debate, candidates for Arlington commonwealth’s attorney left no doubt they have decidedly different views on the role of prosecutor – and aren’t particularly fond of one another, either.” [InsideNova]

Road Closures Tonight in Crystal City — “The Crystal City 5K Fridays races will take place each Friday evening in April (5th, 12th, 19th, and 26th). The Arlington County Police Department will close the following roadways each race day from approximately 6:15 p.m. until 8:15 p.m. to accommodate these events…” [Arlington County]

Pentagon City Ritz Hosting Easter Event — “Based on the huge success we had in 2018 holiday season with Breakfast with Santa, we have decided to celebrate Easter with the Easter Bunny for our little ones.” [Ritz-Carlton]

School Board Challenger Announces Candidacy — “He aims to knock off incumbent School Board Chairman Reid Goldstein, but in a kickoff April 3, David Priddy avoided mentioning the incumbent by name and only tangentially touched on reasons he thinks Goldstein should be ousted.” [InsideNova]

County Starts Census Push — “In a packed room at Arlington Mill Community Center, County Manager Mark Schwartz launched Arlington’s Complete Count Committee — a group of 39 community members who will serve as Census ambassadors to ensure that every person in Arlington County is counted in the 2020 Census on April 1, 2020.” [Arlington County]

Arlington Tech Firm Acquired — “Tetra Tech, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTEK) announced today that it has acquired eGlobalTech, a high-end information technology (IT) solutions, cloud migration, cybersecurity, and management consulting firm based in Arlington, Virginia.” [BusinessWire]

Police Warn of Numerous Scams — Arlington County Police are warning members of the community about a number of scams that have recently been reported, among them the “Imminent Account” fraud, the “I am in Trouble” scam and the “Jury Duty” or “IRS” scam. [Arlington County]

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Arlington resident Todd Hitt, the founder of Falls Church-based Kiddar Capital, has pleaded guilty to a massive, Ponzi-like fraud scheme.

Federal prosecutors say Hitt, “solicited approximately $30 million from investors for a variety of real estate and venture capital investments,” but used much of the money “for personal spending to support an extravagant lifestyle and new investor’s funds used to pay off old investors.”

“Hitt’s fraudulent conduct resulted in investor losses of approximately $20 million,” said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Before his October arrest by the FBI, Hitt was developing a new company headquarters in Falls Church. A member of a prominent local commercial real estate family, Hitt made headlines as a young housing developer in the 1990s for clashing with Arlington neighbors while building what residents dubbed “McMansions.”

More on the guilty plea, and Hitt’s future sentencing, from the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

An Arlington man pleaded guilty today to orchestrating eight fraud schemes that resulted in total losses of approximately $20 million.

According to court documents, Todd Elliott Hitt, 54, solicited approximately $30 million from investors for a variety of real estate and venture capital investments in the Washington, D.C. area from 2014 through August 2018. The investments included Hitt’s solicitation of approximately $17 million from investors in order to purchase a five-story office building adjacent to a planned future stop on the Silver Line in Herndon. Hitt made false statements and material omissions to investors by failing to disclose that a significant portion of the monies raised were commingled with other unrelated investment projects, used for personal spending to support an extravagant lifestyle and new investor’s funds used to pay off old investors in a Ponzi-like scheme. Hitt’s fraudulent conduct resulted in investor losses of approximately $20 million.

Hitt pleaded guilty to a charge of securities fraud in and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $5 million or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 21. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Matthew J. DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Division, FBI Washington Field Office, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark D. Lytle is prosecuting the case.

Photo via YouTube

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Arlington County Police said they recovered a “skimmer” device designed to steal credit and debit card information from a Clarendon ATM late last week.

ACPD said officers responded to the 3000 block of Wilson Blvd just after 11 a.m. on Friday, January 12 after hearing reports of the device. Police determined that it was installed at some point between the previous afternoon and that morning.

Police did not specify which ATM the device was installed at. That block is home to a BB&T bank branch and ATM.

The skimmers have recently been discovered inside pumps at local gas stations, while AAA warned of a spate of the devices across the region last year.

In a tweet, ACPD warned ATM users to monitor their bank statements and report any activity that appears to be fraudulent.

More from an ACPD crime report:

SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES (Significant), 2018-01120112, 3000 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 11:11 a.m. on January 12, police responded to the area for the report of a skimming device located inside an ATM. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 4:30 p.m. on January 11 and 10:30 a.m. on January 12, an unknown suspect placed the device inside the machine. There is no suspect description. The investigation is ongoing.

Photo via Google Maps.

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