Hank Walther has been promoted to Acting Deputy Chief for health care fraud in the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
According to former DOJ officials, the Fraud Section also is in the process of hiring new prosecutors in an effort to continue the department’s heightened efforts to tamp down on health care fraud. One former official said the department could bring in more than 20 new prosecutors to the health care fraud team, a move that would double the team’s size.
DOJ spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said she could not comment on the specifics, but that the department was committed to increasing the resources dedicated to this area.
Walther is replacing Kirk Ogrosky, who left the department earlier this month to become a partner at Arnold & Porter LLP. During Ogrosky’s tenure, health care fraud became a priority in the Fraud Section. When Ogrosky left, the health care team was already the largest in the Fraud Section, in terms of number of prosecutors.
Ogrosky created and implemented the Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams currently used in Miami, Baton Rouge, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Detroit and Houston. Based on those teams’ success, the Justice Department is planning to expand the use of the strike forces.
Walther was hired in January 2006 as a trial attorney in the Fraud Section, working on everything from securities fraud to health care fraud. He became an Assistant Chief for the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act team in October 2008, and he is currently the lead prosecutor in the FCPA “sting” case.
During a telephone interview, Ogrosky said he thought highly of his replacement.
“He’s an outstanding pick. He not only understands the program and what I was trying to do, but he also has the experience of being a prosecutor, actually trying these cases,” Ogrosky said.
Walther was involved with the first strike force team in Miami. Ogrosky said that his time spent dealing with FBI agents and prosecuting cases would serve him well.
“You’ve got to get out there in these cities,” he said. “These criminals are not static — they don’t sit around waiting in Washington for people to do things, they change.”
Sweeney said that Walther’s promotion had been announced to the section on March 4.
The DOJ’s increased efforts in the health care fraud area coincide with the Obama administration’s declarations that fighting health care fraud is a priority. Against the backdrop of the enactment of massive health care legislation, the administration has asked for $90 million in fiscal 2011 — an increase of $60 million — to combat health care fruad.
During a hearing before a House Appropriations subcommittee earlier this month, acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler said that more than half of that amount would cover costs of deploying health care strike forces in as many as 13 new cities.
The Criminal Division and the U.S. Attorneys’ offices collaborate in the task forces, but Grindler said the department expected the latter to “continue these programs in perpetuity” once staffed with trained agents and Assistant U.S. Attorneys. Grindler said the strike forces in Miami and Los Angeles had become fixtures in their respective U.S. Attorneys’ offices.