April 9 (Reuters) - U.S. authorities on Tuesday said 24 defendants have been charged in connection with one of the largest health care fraud schemes prosecuted by the federal government, involving telemedicine companies and resulting in more than $1.2 billion of losses.
Authorities said the charges concern an alleged scheme by so-called durable medical equipment companies to pay kickbacks and bribes in exchange for referrals of Medicare beneficiaries for medically unnecessary back, knee, shoulder and wrist braces.
The U.S. Department of Justice said hundreds of thousands of elderly or disabled patients were lured into the scheme to defraud Medicare.
Among the defendants were chief executives and other top officials associated with five telemedicine companies, and the owners of dozens of durable medical equipment companies. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)
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