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Civil litigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York sweetened federal coffers by a little more than $71 million during the past 12 months, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said Thursday.

The money, one of the highest recovery rates ever obtained by the office, came solely from civil litigation – not from criminal cases.

It is in addition to financial recoveries by the office over that same period using criminal, forfeiture or other enforcement tools, including the more than $11 million obtained this week from John Gizzi, a defendant convicted of criminal tax fraud here, Hochul said.

“While the public well knows of the office’s ability to prosecute those who hurt others, cases brought by this office’s ACE Unit are other ways in which we ensure the American public is protected against fraud and abuse,” he said.

Hochul stressed that the ACE Unit is a somewhat obscure part of his office operations that sues those who commit fraud against some of the U.S. government’s programs, such as health care, procurement and others.

This is known as Affirmative Civil Litigation and is handled by the office’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit, Hochul explained.

Examples of cases successfully handled by the unit over the past 12 months included this month’s more than $34 million settlement with 55 hospitals spread throughout 21 states for submitting false claims to Medicare for a procedure for spinal fracture known as kyphoplasty, Hochul said.

Instead of billing the U.S. government for what should have been the minimally invasive, outpatient kyphoplasty procedure, the hospitals collected government payments from what appeared to be multiday inpatient stays in the hospitals, he said.

In March a unit obtained a settlement of $33.5 million from ISTA Pharmaceuticals, which misbranded the drug Xibrom to increase sales nationwide, he said.

He spoke highly of the members of the unit, which is supervised by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Pat Fleming and includes Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gretchen Wylegala, MaryEllen Kresse and Kathleen Lynch, investigator Margaret McFarland, auditor Theresa Tetlow and paralegal Jessica Rogers.

email: mgryta@buffnews.com