Josh Burns, 43, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and pay and receive health care kickbacks, and was sentenced on Tuesday, in one of the largest health-care fraud schemes in U.S. history.
Chief U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood sentenced the Bare Knuckle FC heavyweight to three years of supervised release three years after his arrest.
Burns must also pay $144,000 restitution for his role in the case resulting from a prolonged government focus on health care fraud across the country.
“Burns was misled by Patino and others and shouldn’t spend any time in prison,” defense lawyer Ryan Machasic wrote in a memo to the judge.
The heavyweight fight faced up to five years in prison but prosecutors were willing to work towards a lesser sentence after Burns cooperated with authorities and helped provide information that led to the conviction of Dr. Frank Patino in September.
According to a report from the Detroit News, “Burns funneled kickbacks to Patino from medical labs that paid money in exchange for the doctor referring patients to their clinics for urine tests. In this portion of a broader scheme, Patino referred more than $2.6 million worth of lab services and Burns had the kickbacks deposited in his bank account and spent some of the cash on the doctor’s behalf sponsoring MMA fighters.”
“Had Medicare known that the tests were performed as a result of kickbacks and bribes, it would not have paid a single dollar for them,” U.S. Trial Attorneys Kathleen Cooperstein and Steven Scott wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “To put it bluntly, these tests were a waste of Medicare funds, and by participating in an illegal scheme to refer them, Burns inflicted a great deal of harm to the public health system and the citizens it serves.”
Burns, who previously competed in professional mixed martial arts, most recently fought three times for Bare Knuckle FC. In his most recent outing, Burns defeated Sam Shewmaker by way of first round knockout at BKFC 21 in September.
“For much of his adult life, Burns has worked in professions that are physically taxing — for example, bare knuckle boxing, mixed martial arts, bouncing, and landscaping,” prosecutors wrote. “The kickback scheme to which Burns has pleaded guilty presented an opportunity to earn a living without damaging his body, an opportunity at which Burns appears to have leapt. With the proper education and vocational training, Burns will have greater opportunity to pursue legal employment of a non-taxing nature going forward.”