Patrick Britton-Harr, the founder of a membership-based private air service company based partially in Sarasota that’s grappling with a bevy of lawsuits and fraud allegations, is facing new legal troubles: The U.S. Department of Justice, through the FBI’s Baltimore field office, filed a civil complaint July 18 alleging he submitted “claims to Medicare for laboratory tests that were not ordered by health care providers, not medically necessary and sometimes never performed.”
The case against Britton-Harr, filed under the False Claims Act, does not allege any criminal misconduct. The complaint contends that Britton-Harr, owner and operator of Provista Health LLC as well as multiple other corporate entities, sought to profit from the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic by “offering COVID-19 tests to nursing homes as a way to bill Medicare for a wide array of medically unnecessary respiratory pathogen panel (RPP) tests.” These RPP tests were not medically necessary, the complaint alleges, because the “beneficiaries had no symptoms of a respiratory illness and because the tests were for uncommon respiratory pathogens.”
The complaint also alleges Britton-Harr and Provista Health submitted claims for RPP tests that were never ordered by physicians. Federal officials allege that “multiple physicians denied ever ordering the thousands of RPP tests for which Britton-Harr and Provista Health allegedly submitted claims to Medicare listing one of these physicians as the ordering provider.” The complaint further alleges Britton-Harr and Provista Health submitted claims to Medicare for RPP tests that were never performed, including over 300 claims that stated that the nasal swab test sample was supposedly collected from the beneficiary on a date after the beneficiary had died.
“Patrick Britton-Harr and his co-conspirators took advantage of vulnerable adults during the public health emergency,” FBI Baltimore Field Office Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski says in the statement. “The FBI and its partners will continue to aggressively investigate those who try to exploit the American people and swindle funds for their own profit.”
“The complaint alleges that these individuals and their companies took advantage of a national health crisis to line their own pockets,” adds U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron for the District of Maryland in the statement.
Britton-Harr didn’t return texts and a call to his cell phone seeking comment Wednesday. Attorneys for Britton-Harr listed as defense counsel in other cases, Michaerl Hartman and Stuart Nash, both with Holland & Knight, didn’t return phone messages for comment.
In addition to Provista, lab entities Britton-Harr wholly owned and operated that were named in the new civil complaint include AMS Onsite Inc., Britton-Harr Enterprises Inc., Coastal Laboratories Inc. and Coastal Management Group Inc.
Some of those entities are defendants in a slew of lawsuits against Britton-Harr connected to his other company, AeroVanti Aviation, which has dual headquarters in Sarasota and Annapolis, Maryland. In that situation, the company faces state and federal lawsuits claiming it sold $150,000 memberships for planes that had been repossessed. Other allegations include spending money on pro sports and sponsorships while its fleet had been grounded and questions about the veracity of claims it raised $100 million from investors. A Fort Lauderdale civil attorney suing the AeroVanti on behalf of two clients says the company’s actions have the “hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme."
Coastal Laboratories is a defendant in one of the AeroVanti civil lawsuits against Britton-Harr, court records show. That complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in Maryland, is sealed. Among the defendants listed in that case, in addition to Coastal Laboratories, are Britton-Harr, Britton-Harr Enterprises Inc. and AeroVanti and two of its subsidiaries.
Coastal Laboratories, according to Maryland state records, is headed by Britton-Harr and is listed as “not being in good standing.” The records also show its status as “forfeited.”
According to the Maryland Department of Assessment & Taxation, a company earns the “not in good standing” designation when it is “not in compliance with one or more Maryland laws that apply to businesses and their responsibilities in this state.”
The allegations against Britton-Harr come not long after he, and the company, boasted about several victories. He was named a Business Observer 40 Under 40 winner in October, and other regional media publications lauded the business. The company also sent out announcements about receiving a $100 million investment led by Lafayette Aircraft Leasing in 2021 and a $9.75 million Series A funding round last year.
The Medicare fraud case is being handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. The allegations, according to the statement, were identified by a government investigation that arose from a proactive analysis of Medicare claims data.