Attorney General Tong Announces $22 Million False Claims Settlement with Essilor
(Hartford, CT) — Attorney General William Tong announced today that Connecticut has joined 34 other states in settling allegations of kickbacks paid to referring providers against Essilor International, Essilor of America Inc., Essilor Laboratories of America Inc., and Essilor Instruments USA (Essilor), headquartered in Dallas. Essilor manufactures, markets, and distributes optical lenses and equipment used to produce optical lenses. Pursuant to the settlement, Essilor will pay the United States and 35 states a total of $22 million plus interest. The Connecticut Medicaid program will be paid $999,698.91 through the settlement.
“Essilor offered unlawful kickbacks to encourage optometrists and ophthalmologists to order and purchase their products, resulting in tainted claims to Medicaid programs nationwide. Our settlement forces Essilor to pay $22 million to the federal government and 35 states. Together, we are sending a strong message to manufacturers and medical providers that these types of kickbacks are unlawful and will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General Tong.
“By causing tainted claims to be submitted to the State’s Medicaid Program, Essilor’s actions resulted in the company improperly diverting Medicaid Funds needed by our most vulnerable state residents. This collaborative investigative effort between the Attorney General’s office, the state Department of Social Services, the Division of Criminal Justice and other state and federal agencies sends a clear message that the improper diversion of Connecticut Medicaid funds will not be tolerated and will result in serious consequences,” said Chief State’s Attorney Patrick J. Griffin.
The settlement resolves allegations that between Jan. 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2016, Essilor knowingly and willfully offered or paid remuneration to eye care providers, such as optometrists and ophthalmologists, to induce those providers to order and purchase Essilor products for their patients, including Medicaid beneficiaries. The government alleges that the Essilor’s conduct violated the Federal False Claims Statute and the Connecticut False Claims Act and resulted in the submission of false claims to the Connecticut Medicaid program.
This settlement arises from two whistleblower lawsuits filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. A team from the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units (“NAMFCU”) participated in the settlement negotiations on behalf of the states. The NAMFCU Team included representatives from the Offices of the Attorneys General for the states of California, Colorado, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
Paralegal Specialist Orlean Woodham and Deputy Associate Attorney General Gregory O’Connell, Chief of the Government Fraud Section, assisted the Attorney General in this matter.