Thursday, October 25, 2007
The offices of WellCare Health Plans, Inc. in Tampa were searched by federal and state agents. The company issued a terse press release (here) that states, "Today federal and state officials executed a search warrant at our Tampa headquarters. We are cooperating with the authorities. Our number one priority is making sure that our members have access to needed care and services. Our essential services are operational and will remain uninterrupted." WellCare provides services to state Medicaid programs, with Florida the largest one, with over 350,000 beneficiaries. The search was conducted by FBI agents along with investigators from the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the state.
The use of a search warrant, while uncommon in white collar crime cases, is a tactic being used more frequently, particularly in healthcare fraud investigations. It is usually an indication that documents might not be available by subpoena, and there could be a concern that certain items will be destroyed or removed, such as a second set of financial records or documentation for certain off-books transactions. The government has to provide information to obtain the warrant, so there is probably an affidavit from an agent outlining the scope of the investigation and the potential violations. Whether the affidavit emerges any time soon remains to be seen, but execution of a search warrant shows that the government is serious about the case, which will get the attention of WellCare's board of directors. Some defense lawyers are going to be burning the midnight oil trying to figure out the company's status and potential targets of the investigation. A story in the Tampa Tribune (here) discusses the search. (ph)
UPDATE: A message from WellCare CEO Todd Farha is available here. He states that the company cannot provide additional details about the investigation at this time, and will do so "as appropriate." The stock is down approximately 50% as of 11:00 a.m. October 25.