Published: May 13, 2010 11:44 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - The government says it recovered $2.5 billion

in overpayments for the Medicare trust fund last year as the Obama

administration focused attention on fraud enforcement efforts in

the health care industry.

In a report, the Justice Department and the Health and Human

Services Department say their cooperative efforts are showing

results as they put investigative resources in areas where health

care fraud is especially widespread, including south Florida; Los

Angeles; Houston; Detroit; New York City's Brooklyn borough; Baton

Rouge, La.; and Tampa, Fla.

The result is a rising number of criminal prosecutions and the

return of more stolen money to the government. At the same time,

federal investigators are blocking unscrupulous companies from

getting into government health care programs in the first place.

For the fiscal year that ended last Sept. 30, the federal

government won or negotiated $1.63 billion in judgments and

settlements, and investigators opened 1,014 new criminal health

care fraud investigations involving 1,786 defendants.

Most of those figures are up from 2008, when the government won

or negotiated $1 billion in judgments and settlements, and

investigators opened 957 new criminal health care fraud

investigations involving 1,641 potential defendants.

In 2008, the recoveries for the Medicare Trust Fund totaled $1.9

billion.