Former Owner of Medical Equipment Supply Company Sentenced for $3.5 Million Medicare and Medi-Cal Fraud Scheme

The former owner of Ezcor Medical Supply was sentenced today to serve 97 months in prison for her role in a fraud scheme that resulted in $3.5 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medi-Cal.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Deckerof the Central District of California, Special Agent in Charge Glenn R. Ferry of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Los Angeles Region, Assistant Director in Charge David Bowdich of the FBI’s Los Angeles Division and Special Agent in Charge Joseph Fendrick of the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse made the announcement.

Sylvia Walter-Eze, 48, of Stevenson Ranch, California, was found guilty by a federal jury on March 20, 2015, of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, four counts of health care fraud, and one count of conspiracy to pay illegal health care kickbacks.  In addition to imposing the term of imprisonment, U.S District Judge R. Gary Klausner ordered Walter-Eze to pay restitution in the amounts of $1,866,260 to Medicare and $73,268 to Medi-Cal.

The evidence presented at trial showed that Walter-Eze, the former owner of Ezcor, a durable medical equipment (DME) supply company located in Valencia, California, fraudulently billed more than $3.5 million to Medicare and Medi-Cal for DME that was not medically necessary.  The trial evidence also demonstrated that Walter-Eze paid illegal kickbacks to patient recruiters in exchange for patient referrals.  The evidence further showed that Walter-Eze paid kickbacks to physicians for fraudulent prescriptions for medically unnecessary, and expensive, power wheelchairs, which prescriptions Walter-Eze then used to support her fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medi-Cal.  The evidence showed that, between 2007 and 2012, Walter-Eze submitted $3,521,786 in fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medi-Cal, and that she received $1,939,529 in reimbursement for those claims.

The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG’s Los Angeles Regional Office and the California Department of Justice, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California.  The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Blanca Quintero and Alexander F. Porter of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged over 2,300 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for over $7 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Team, go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

Assistant Administrator of Riverside General Hospital Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison for $116 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

The former assistant administrator of Riverside General Hospital was sentenced today to 40 years in prison for his role in a $116 million Medicare fraud scheme.  To date, 10 individuals have pleaded guilty or been convicted for their involvement in the scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas made the announcement.

Mohammad Khan, 65, of Houston, the assistant administrator who oversaw many of the partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) at Riverside General Hospital, pleaded guilty in February 2012 to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks and paying illegal kickbacks.  He was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Sim Lake of the Southern District of Texas.  He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $31,321,200.

According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, from January 2008 through February 2012, Khan and others at Riverside General Hospital operated a scheme to defraud Medicare by submitting claims for PHP services that were not medically necessary and, in some cases, never provided.  Prior to Khan’s arrest, Riverside submitted over $116 million in claims to Medicare for PHP services purportedly provided to the recruited beneficiaries, when in fact, the PHP services were medically unnecessary or never provided.  Khan also admitted that he and his co-conspirators paid kickbacks to patient recruiters and to owners and operators of group care homes in exchange for which those individuals delivered ineligible Medicare beneficiaries to the hospital’s PHPs.

Others involved in the fraudulent scheme already have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.  Earnest Gibson III, the former president of Riverside; his son, Earnest Gibson IV, who operated a Riverside PHP; Regina Askew, a patient file auditor and group home operator; and Robert Crane, a patient recruiter, were all convicted after jury trial in November 2014 and await sentencing.  William Bullock, an operator of a Riverside satellite location, as well as Leslie Clark, Robert Ferguson, Waddie McDuffie and Sharonda Holmes, who were involved in paying or receiving kickbacks, also have pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme.

The case was investigated by the FBI, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, with assistance from Health & Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General, Railroad Retirement Board’s Office of Inspector General and Office of Personnel Management’s Office of Inspector General.  The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Texas.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Laura M.K. Cordova of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,100 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $6.5 billion.  In addition, the HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to:www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

Detroit-Area Neurosurgeon Admits Causing Serious Bodily Injury to Patients in $11 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

A Detroit-area neurosurgeon pleaded guilty today in two separate criminal cases that resulted in serious bodily injury to his patients and more than $11 million in Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, Assistant Director in Charge David L. Bowdich of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Special Agent in Charge Glenn R. Ferry of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Los Angeles Region and Special Agent in Charge Marlon Miller of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations’ (ICE-HSI) Detroit Field Office made the announcement.

“Disregarding his Hippocratic oath to do no harm, Dr. Sabit enriched himself by performing unnecessary, invasive spinal surgeries and implanting costly and unnecessary medical devices, all at the expense of his patients’ health and welfare,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Doctors who sell their medical judgment and ethics for personal profit endanger the lives and safety of vulnerable patients who count on their advice to make life-altering decisions.  The Criminal Division of the Department of Justice will continue to prioritize the prosecution of doctors whose criminal behavior puts patients at risk.”

“This case of health care fraud is particularly egregious because Dr. Sabit caused serious bodily injury to his patients by acting out of his own greed instead of the best interests of his patients,” said U.S. Attorney McQuade.  “Not only did he steal $11 million in insurance proceeds, but he also betrayed his trust to patients by lying to them about the procedures that were medically necessary and that were actually performed.”

Aria O. Sabit, M.D., 39, of Birmingham, Michigan, entered his guilty pleas in both criminal cases at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman of the Eastern District of Michigan.  Sabit pleaded guilty to four counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, resulting in losses to Medicare, Medicaid and various private insurance companies.  A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 15, 2015.

According to court documents, Sabit was a licensed neurosurgeon who owned and operated the Michigan Brain and Spine Physicians Group with various locations in the Eastern District of Michigan, including Southfield, Michigan, Clinton Township, Michigan, and Dearborn, Michigan, which opened in approximately April 2011.

During his guilty plea today, Sabit admitted that he derived significant profits by convincing patients to undergo spinal fusion surgeries with instrumentation (meaning specific medical devices designed to stabilize and strengthen the spine), which he never rendered, and subsequently billing public and private healthcare benefit programs for those fraudulent services.

Sabit further admitted he operated on patients and dictated in his operative reports—that he knew would later be used to support his fraudulent insurance claims—that he had performed spinal fusion with instrumentation, which he never performed.  This invasive surgery caused serious bodily injury to the patients.  Sabit admitted that his operative reports and treatment records contained false statements about the procedures performed, and the instrumentation used in the procedures.  Sabit also admitted that, on occasion, he would implant cortical bone dowels and falsely dictate in his operative reports that he had implanted instrumentation.  Sabit, then fraudulently billed public and private health care programs for instrumentation, when in fact the implants were tissue.  Sabit admitted he failed to render services in relation to lumbar and thoracic fusion surgeries, including in certain instances, billing for implants that were not provided.

Sabit also admitted that, prior to moving to Michigan, he was a resident of Ventura, California, and a licensed neurosurgeon in California.  He admitted that in approximately February 2010, he became involved with Apex Medical Technologies LLC (Apex) while he was on the staff of a California hospital.

Apex was owned by another neurosurgeon and three non-physicians who operated Apex as a physician-owned distributorship and paid neurosurgeons lucrative illegal kickbacks tied directly to the volume and complexity of the surgeries that the surgeons performed, and the number of Apex spinal implant devices the surgeons used in their spine surgeries.

In exchange for the opportunity to invest in Apex and share in its profits, Sabit admitted that he agreed to convince his hospital to buy spinal implant devices from Apex and use a sufficient number of Apex spinal implant devices in his spine surgeries.  Sabit further admitted that he and Apex’s co-owners used Apex to operate an illegal kickback scheme.  In doing so, they concealed Sabit’s involvement in Apex from outsiders.  Sabit then required the hospitals and surgical centers where he and his fellow neurosurgeon performed surgeries to purchase spinal implant devices from Apex.

Sabit admitted that his involvement in Apex, and the financial incentives provided to him by Apex and his co-conspirators, caused him to compromise his medical judgment and cause serious bodily injury to his patients by performing medically unnecessary spine surgeries on some of the patients in whom he implanted Apex spinal implant devices.  Sabit admitted that on a few occasions, the money he made from using Apex spinal implant devices motivated him either to refer patients in for spine surgery who did not medically need surgery or refer his patients for more complex surgeries, such as multi-level spine fusions, that they did not need.

Sabit also admitted that the financial incentives provided to him by Apex and his co-conspirators caused him to “over instrument” his patients (meaning Sabit used more spinal implant devices than were medically necessary to treat his patients) in order to generate more sales revenue for Apex, which resulted in serious bodily injury to his patients.

The Michigan case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and ICE.  The California case—which was subsequently transferred to the Eastern District of Michigan—was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG.  The Michigan case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Regina R. McCullough and Philip A. Ross of the Eastern District of Michigan.  The California case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Michigan, and is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Jonathan T. Baum and Trial Attorneys Dustin Davis and Blanca Quintero of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Sabit is also a defendant in two civil False Claims Act cases brought by the Department of Justice in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,100 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6.5 billion.  In addition, the HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Former President of Riverside General Hospital Sentenced to 45 Years in Prison in $158 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

The former president of a Houston hospital, his son and a co-conspirator were sentenced today to 45 years, 20 years and 12 years in prison, respectively, for their roles in a $158 million Medicare fraud scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Lucy R. Cruz of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Houston Field Office, the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), Special Agent in Charge Mike Fields of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services-Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Dallas Regional Office, Special Agent in Charge Joseph J. Del Favero of the Railroad Retirement Board-Office of Inspector General (RRB-OIG) and Inspector General Patrick E. McFarland of the Office of Personnel Management-Office of Inspector General (OPM-OIG) made the announcement.

“The former President of Houston’s Riverside hospital, his son and their co-conspirators saw mentally ill, elderly and disabled Medicare beneficiaries as commodities to be turned into profit centers – not as vulnerable individuals in need of health care,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Rather than providing needed medical care to a historically underserved community, the defendants ran a longstanding hospital into the ground through their greed and fraud.  According to the evidence presented at trial, the defendants had patients sit around the facility watching movies while they received no treatment.  Meanwhile, the defendants billed Medicare more than $158 million for care that was never provided.  This brazen fraud cannot and will not be tolerated.”

Earnest Gibson III, 70, the former president of Riverside General Hospital, Earnest Gibson IV, 37, the operator of Devotions Care Solutions, a satellite psychiatric facility of Riverside General Hospital, and Regina Askew, 50, the owner of Safe and Sound group home, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal of the Southern District of Texas.  In addition to the significant terms of imprisonment, Earnest Gibson III was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $46,753,180, Earnest Gibson IV was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $7,518,480, and Regina Askew was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $46,255,893.

Following a five-week jury trial, on Oct. 20, 2014, Earnest Gibson III, Earnest Gibson IV and Regina Askew each were convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, as well as related counts of paying or receiving illegal kickbacks.  Earnest Gibson III and Earnest Gibson IV also were convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Co-defendant Robert Crane, a patient recruiter, also was convicted of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 9, 2015.

According to evidence presented at trial, from 2005 until June 2012, the defendants and others engaged in a scheme to defraud Medicare by submitting to Medicare, through Riverside and its satellite locations, approximately $158 million in false and fraudulent claims for partial hospitalization program (PHP) services.  A PHP is a form of intensive outpatient treatment for severe mental illness.

Specifically, evidence at trial demonstrated that the Medicare beneficiaries for whom the hospital billed Medicare did not qualify for or need PHP services.  Moreover, the evidence showed that Medicare beneficiaries rarely saw a psychiatrist and did not receive intensive psychiatric treatment.  In fact, some of the beneficiaries were suffering from Alzheimer’s and could not actively participate in the treatment for which Medicare was billed.

Evidence presented at trial also showed that Earnest Gibson III paid kickbacks to patient recruiters and to owners and operators of group care homes, including Regina Askew, in exchange for which those individuals delivered ineligible Medicare beneficiaries to the hospital’s PHPs.  Earnest Gibson IV also paid patient recruiters, including Robert Crane and others, to deliver ineligible Medicare beneficiaries to the specific PHP operated by Earnest Gibson IV.

To date, six other individuals either have pleaded guilty based on their involvement in the scheme.  Mohammad Khan, an assistant administrator at Riverside, who managed many of the hospital’s PHPs, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay illegal kickbacks, and five counts of paying illegal kickbacks; on May 21, 2015, Mohammad Khan was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake of the Southern District of Texas to 40 years in prison for his role in the scheme.  William Bullock, an operator of a Riverside satellite location, as well as Leslie Clark, Robert Ferguson, Waddie McDuffie and Sharonda Holmes, who were involved in paying or receiving kickbacks, also have pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme and await sentencing.

The case was investigated by the FBI, IRS-CI, Texas MFCU, HHS-OIG, RRB-OIG and OPM-OIG.  The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Texas.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chiefs Laura M.K. Cordova and Jennifer L. Saulino and Trial Attorney Ashlee C. McFarlane of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,100 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $6.5 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

Seventh Circuit affirms that physician referral includes certification.

In U.S. v. Patel, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld a Chicago doctor’s criminal conviction under the Anti-Kickback Statute for accepting payments from a home health agency finding that a referral includes not just a recommendation to visit a specific business but also a certification allowing that visit to be billed to the federal government.

“A narrow definition of the term would defeat the central purposes of the [statute],” the circuit panel wrote.

The appellant physician had provided his patients a wide variety of agencies to choose from and only accepted inducements from one home health care agency.  Still , the Circuit Court ruled that that conduct was still improper because it implied a quid pro quo every time Patel filled out the forms necessary for the home health care agency to receive reimbursements from the government.

“Patel argues that he … played no role in his patients’ initial selection of Grand (the health care agency) or their decision to continue using Grand,” the court said. “True, but Patel chose whether his patients could go to Grand at all, which we think is just as important.”

The panel noted that federal Stark Law, which restricts physician self-referrals, defines the term to cover “certifying or recertifying” the need for care.  Rejecting the loophole offered by the appellant physician in his appeal, the Circuit Court recognized that “the possibility of a kickback for each recertification incentivizes the physician to keep recertifying, even if further treatment is unnecessary or if treatment by a different provider would be in the patient’s best interest….”

Unlicensed Detroit Doctor Convicted in $4.69 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

A federal jury in Detroit today convicted an unlicensed physician for his participation in a nearly $4.7 million Medicare fraud scheme, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office.

Wilfred Griffith, 64, of Detroit, a graduate of a foreign medical school with no medical license, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to solicit and receive health care kickbacks.  A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 8, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Sean F. Cox of the Eastern District of Michigan.

According to evidence presented at trial, Griffith worked as an unlicensed physician at Phoenix Visiting Physicians in 2010 and 2011.  At that clinic, Griffith treated Medicare beneficiaries and used prescription pads pre-signed by Dr. Dwight Smith to prescribe medicine.

The evidence demonstrated that Griffith also referred Medicare beneficiaries to a Detroit-area home health company called Cherish Home Health Services Inc. (Cherish) in exchange for kickbacks.  In ordering the home health services, Griffith used the names and signatures of Dr. Smith and two other Detroit-area physicians to certify that the beneficiaries were homebound and needed home health services, when they did not.

Evidence showed that based on the fraudulent referrals from Griffith and others, Cherish submitted false claims to Medicare for home health services that were never provided and were not medically necessary.  Medicare beneficiaries pre-signed supporting medical paperwork that was then completed and signed by others at Cherish to falsely show that care was provided.

Between November 2009 and December 2013, Medicare paid Cherish nearly $4.7 million, which included more than $680,000 for home health services purportedly rendered to beneficiaries referred by Griffith using the names of Dr. Smith and the two other physicians.

Two other individuals have pleaded guilty for their roles in this scheme.  Zia Hassan, 48, the owner of Cherish, pleaded guilty on Jan. 16, 2015, and Nathan Miller, 53, a patient recruiter who referred beneficiaries to Hassan in exchange for cash kickbacks, pleaded guilty on Aug. 4, 2014.  On May 7, 2012, Dr. Smith also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and on June 12, 2014, U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen of the Eastern District of Michigan sentenced Dr. Smith to three years in prison.

The case was investigated by HHS-OIG and the FBI and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Katharine A. Wagner and Special Trial Attorney Katie R. Fink of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Hurford of the Eastern District of Michigan.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,100 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6.5 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Home Health Agency Owner Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Role in Miami Health Care Fraud Scheme

Patient Recruiter Sentenced To Two Years In Prison For Participating In The Same Scheme

A South Florida man was sentenced to 10 years in prison today in connection with a long-running $6.2 million Medicare fraud scheme involving Professional Medical Home Health LLC (Professional Home Health), a Miami home health care agency that purported to provide home health and therapy services, as well as similar schemes at two additional Miami home health care agencies.  A second defendant was also sentenced to two years in prison today for his role as a patient recruiter in the fraud scheme at Professional Home Health.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office made the announcement.  Chief U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida imposed the sentence.

Ernesto Fernandez, 48, of Miami, pleaded guilty on Nov. 26, 2014, to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.  In addition to the 10-year prison sentence, Fernandez was also ordered to pay $2,163,057 in restitution and to forfeit $9,061,867, which represents the proceeds traceable to his criminal conduct at all three home health agencies.  Fernandez has been in custody since his bond was revoked on Jan. 30, 2015, for violating the condition of his bond prohibiting contact with victims or witnesses in the case except through counsel.

According to documents filed with his plea agreement, Fernandez was an owner and operator of Professional Home Heath.  He was also the owner and operator of two other South Florida home health agencies.  At each of these companies, Fernandez and his co-conspirators billed the Medicare program for expensive physical therapy and home health services that were not medically necessary or were not provided.  Fernandez admitted that he caused patient documentation to be falsified, and planned, organized and oversaw the submission of fraudulent claims to the Medicare program.

Fernandez also admitted to being a patient recruiter for all three home health agencies.  In that capacity, Fernandez recruited patients for the agencies in exchange for kickbacks, knowing that the agencies would bill the Medicare program on behalf of the recruited patients for expensive home health and therapy services that were not medically necessary or not provided.

Juan Valdes, 37, of Palm Springs, pleaded guilty on Nov. 10, 2014, to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and receive health care kickbacks.  In addition to the two-year prison sentence, Valdes was also ordered to pay 204,526 in restitution.

According to documents filed with his plea agreement, Valdes was a patient recruiter for Professional Home Health.  In that role, he solicited kickbacks and bribes from the owners and operators of Professional Home Health in exchange for providing beneficiaries to allow Professional Home Health to bill Medicare for home health services that were not medically necessary or not provided.

Fernandez and Valdes are the seventh and eighth defendants to be sentenced in connection with the fraudulent schemes at Professional Home Health.  Dennis Hernandez and Jose Alvarez, both owners and operators of Professional Home Health, were each sentenced to 10 years in prison on Jan. 29, 2015.  Joel San Pedro, a manager and supervisor of Professional Home Health, was sentenced to 97 months in prison on Jan. 29, 2015.  Annarella Garcia, an owner of Professional Home Health, was sentenced to 70 months in prison on Aug. 27, 2014.  Annilet Dominguez, an administrator of Professional Home Health, was sentenced to 68 months in prison on Sept. 29, 2014.  Alina Hernandez, a patient recruiter for Professional Home Health, was sentenced to two years in prison on Jan. 29, 2015.

This case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Anne P. McNamara of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,100 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6.5 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Four Florida Residents Sentenced to Federal Prison for Roles in $6 Million Miami Home Health Care Fraud Scheme

Four South Florida residents were sentenced today in connection with a long-running $6.2 million Medicare fraud scheme involving Professional Medical Home Health LLC (Professional Home Health), a Miami home health care agency that purported to provide home health and therapy services.  Two of the defendants were also sentenced in connection with their conduct in similar schemes at other Miami home health care agencies.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office made the announcement.  Chief U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida imposed the sentences.

Dennis Hernandez, 32, of Miami, was sentenced to serve 120 months in prison and ordered to pay $1,438,186 in restitution.  Jose Alvarez, 48, of Miami, was sentenced to serve 120 months in prison and ordered to pay $2,972,570 in restitution.  Joel San Pedro, 45, of Miami, was sentenced to serve 97 months in prison and ordered to pay $4,938,432 in restitution.  Alina Hernandez, 38, of West Palm Beach, was sentenced to serve 24 months in prison and ordered to pay $204,526.05 in restitution.

Dennis Hernandez, Alvarez, San Pedro and Alina Hernandez each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud in November 2014.

In connection with their guilty pleas, each of the defendants admitted that Professional Home Health was actually operated for the purpose of billing the Medicare program for expensive physical therapy and home health services that were not medically necessary or not provided.  Dennis Hernandez, San Pedro and Alvarez admitted to being managers, supervisors, owners and operators at Professional Home Health.  In those capacities, they coordinated and oversaw the submission of fraudulent claims at Professional Home Health, and falsified patient documentation to make it appear that Medicare beneficiaries qualified for and received home health services that were, in fact, not medically necessary or not provided.  Dennis Hernandez and Alvarez also admitted to partaking in similar schemes at additional Miami-area home health agencies.

Additionally, all four defendants admitted to acting as patient recruiters for Professional Home Health.  In this role, they solicited and received kickbacks and bribes from other co-conspirators at Professional Home Health in exchange for recruiting beneficiaries who neither needed, nor, in some cases, received services.

From December 2008 through February 2014, Medicare paid Professional Home Health more than $6.2 million for fraudulent home health claims.

Earlier this year, two other individuals pleaded guilty and were sentenced in connection with the same scheme.  Annarella Garcia, an owner of Professional Home Health, was sentenced to 70 months in prison.  Annilet Dominguez, an administrator of Professional Home Health, was sentenced to 68 months in prison.  Both were also ordered to pay $6,257,142 in restitution.  A sentencing hearing for Ernesto Fernandez and Juan Valdes, co-defendants in the case, is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2015.

This case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Anne P. McNamara of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,100 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6.5 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Owner (Requeira) of Miami Health Company Sentenced

The owner and operator of a Miami home health care agency was sentenced today to 106 months in prison for his participation in a $30 million Medicare fraud scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office made the announcement.

Ramon Regueira, 66, of Miami, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud on Nov. 13, 2014.  In addition to the prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga of the Southern District of Florida ordered Regueira to pay $21 million in restitution, both jointly and severally with his co-conspirator.

According to his plea agreement, Regueira was an owner of Nation’s Best Care Home Health Corp. (Nation’s Best), a Miami home health care agency that purported to provide home health and therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries.  Regueira admitted that he and his co-conspirators operated Nation’s Best for the purpose of billing the Medicare program for, among other things, expensive physical therapy and home health care services that were not medically necessary or not provided.

Specifically, Regueira admitted that he and his co-conspirators paid kickbacks and bribes to patient recruiters who provided patients to Nation’s Best, as well as prescriptions, plans of care (POCs) and certifications for medically unnecessary therapy and home health services.  Regueira and his co-conspirators then used these prescriptions, POCs and medical certifications to fraudulently bill the Medicare program for unnecessary home health care services.

From January 2007 through January 2011, Nation’s Best submitted approximately $30 million in claims for home health services that were not medically necessary or not provided, and Medicare paid approximately $21 million for these fraudulent claims.

The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Joseph S. Beemsterboer and Trial Attorney Kelly Graves of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,100 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6.5 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Owner of Miami Home Health Company Pleads Guilty for Role in $32 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

A Miami owner of a home health care company pleaded guilty today in connection with a $32 million Medicare fraud scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office made the announcement.

Felix Gonzalez, 45, of Miami, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud before U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams of the Southern District of Florida.  A sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 19, 2015.

According to his plea documents, Gonzalez was an owner of AA Advanced Care Inc. (AA Advanced), a Miami home health care agency that purported to provide home health and therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries.  In connection with his guilty plea, Gonzalez admitted that he and his co-conspirators operated AA Advanced for the purpose of billing the Medicare program for, among other things, expensive physical therapy and home health care services that were not medically necessary or not provided at all.

Gonzalez further admitted that he negotiated and paid kickbacks and bribes to patient recruiters in exchange for patient referrals, as well as prescriptions, plans of care (POCs) and certifications for medically unnecessary therapy and home health services for Medicare beneficiaries.  Gonzalez admitted that he and his co-conspirators used these prescriptions, POCs and medical certifications to fraudulently bill the Medicare program for home health care services.

From approximately January 2006 through March 2009, AA Advanced submitted approximately $32 million in claims for home health services that were not medically necessary or not provided, and Medicare paid approximately $22 million for these fraudulent claims.

The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Joseph S. Beemsterboer and Trial Attorney Kelly Graves of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.