Lavaca man charged with defrauding U.S. of more than $88 million

Alex Gladden
Fort Smith Times Record
Area law enforcement are seen at 201 Hwy 255, Tuesday, May 25, in Central City during an investigation related to Billy Joe Taylor, owner of testing laboratories Vitas Laboratories LLC and Beach Tox LLC, for allegedly making $88 million in false and fraudulent claims. Nearly half of the alleged claims were during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A 42-year-old Lavaca man has been charged with attempting to defraud the United States for more than $88 million. 

Billy Joe Taylor, who owns testing laboratories Vitas Laboratories LLC and Beach Tox LLC, allegedly made more than $42 million of the $88 million in false and fraudulent claims during the COVID-19 pandemic, prosecutors said.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Taylor used patient and medical-provider information from lab testing to submit claims for tests, including respiratory pathogen panel and COVID-19 tests that did not actually take place, the DOJ contends.

The complaint also alleges Taylor submitted hundreds of claims for people after they had died or otherwise ceased providing samples.

Taylor was one of 14 defendants charged with "participation in various health care fraud schemes that exploited the COVID-19 pandemic and resulted in over $143 million in false billings," according to the Department of Justice.

“The multiple health care fraud schemes charged today describe theft from American taxpayers through the exploitation of the national emergency,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said. “These medical professionals, corporate executives, and others allegedly took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to line their own pockets instead of providing needed health care services during this unprecedented time in our country."

The 14 defendants span across seven states. 

“Medical providers have been the unsung heroes for the American public throughout the pandemic,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. “It’s disheartening that some have abused their authorities and committed COVID-19 related fraud against trusting citizens." 

In investigating Taylor, the FBI served search warrants on several residences.

Those residences included the 200 block of Highway 255 and Vintage Vibes in Fort Smith.

State and federal partners assisting in the operation include the U.S. Marshals Service, Fort Smith Police Department, Sebastian County Sheriff's Department, and the Crawford County Sheriff's Department.