COLUMBIA — A Mount Pleasant man accused of taking part in a roughly $1 billion Medicare fraud scheme pleaded not guilty in federal court Thursday and was allowed to remain out of prison as he awaits trial.
Andrew Chmiel, who owns a home in the Hobcaw Creek Plantation neighborhood, is accused of purchasing fraudulent Medicare prescriptions from call centers located overseas and billing federal taxpayers for unnecessary back, leg and neck braces.
Federal prosecutors in South Carolina allege Chmiel illegally netted more than $100 million through 14 businesses he controls in six states, including operations in Mount Pleasant, North Charleston, Greer and Taylors.
On Thursday morning, Chmiel arrived at the federal courthouse in Columbia alongside his attorney, Bart Daniels.
Chmiel denies the charges against him.
The federal judge allowed Chmiel to remain out of prison but restricted his travel to South Carolina and North Carolina. He was forced to hand over his passport.
Meanwhile, federal officials in Columbia have already made huge progress in the sprawling Medicare fraud case, which was nicknamed "Operation Brace Yourself."
Herb Kimble, another person charged in the investigation, agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors earlier this month.
Kimble, who ran the call centers in the Philippines, signed a guilty plea on April 4 in Columbia and agreed to pay restitution of $40 million for his role in the fraud.
According to the plea deal, Kimble has already "provided substantial assistance to the government."
The information he provided allowed federal investigators to increase the amount of money they are seeking to get back from the 24 people charged in the scheme, according to federal court documents.
The federal court documents show Kimble directly interacted with Chmiel's Mount Pleasant business, Cumberland Medical Equipment Inc.