Approximately 150 federal and state law enforcement agents launched a massive raid on one of the biggest perpetrators of government fraud in America: The Scooter Store. Yes, that's right. The nation's largest provider of single-person electric vehicles and power chairs is the target of a federal investigation, probably because many of the people who ride around their "personal mobility devices" don't actually need them.
In January, CBS This Morning ran a cutting exposé on the company, detailing how it "railroads" doctors into prescribing the chair for their patients, most of whom are on Medicare or Medicaid. That way they can bill the government for their highly dubious medical device, while the patient gets a cool new scooter without paying for it, and The Scooter Store makes a nice profit. Doctors and former employees told CBS that the company would harass physicians with non-stop phone calls and offices drop-ins in order to wear them down. The company even has a special department devoted to getting chairs for patients who had already been ruled ineligible by Medicare. No doubt the pressure comes because their ads guarantee that the chair will be free if they can't get you qualified.
The Scooter Store is so good at getting the chairs that a government audit found that they had overbilled Medicare by over $100 million between 2009-2012. It's no wonder their ads brag that "No other company will work harder to make you mobile."
FBI agents would not provide details on any crimes or possible charges behind the search warrant, but 1,200 employees of the company were escorted from the headquarters in New Braunfels, Texas, on Wednesday, and were not allowed back into today, as investigators continue to dig for clues. Police also searched a related management company that keeps The Scooter Store's sales records.
Unfortunately, the FBI won't be going after the handful of customers who know they don't need a scooter or wheelchair, but still want the government to buy them one. Sort of like the people at airports who experience "wheelchair miracles" leaping up and running to their gate after an airport employee has helpfully pushed them most of the way. Officials at Los Angeles International Airport estimate that 15 percent of the people who request wheelchair assistance are faking it, because they want to skip lines and get on board their flights faster. We're sure most Scooter Store customers are unhealthy people, innocently going along with the company's promises of getting out of the house more, but the disability fakers are the real criminals if you ask us.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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