Telecom Executive Pleads Guilty to FCPA Charge in Connection With Haitian Bribery Scheme

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The former general manager of a Miami-based telecommunications company pleaded guilty today for his role in a scheme to pay $3 million in bribes to various Haitian officials to secure a lucrative contract with Telecommunications D’Haiti (Haiti Teleco), the state-owned and state-controlled telecommunications company in Haiti.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson of Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Miami Field Office made the announcement.

Amadeus Richers, 66, of Brazil, pleaded guilty in federal court in Miami to count one of a second superseding indictment charging him with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  According to admissions in the plea documents, beginning in 2001 and lasting until 2004, Richers and his co-conspirators paid roughly $3 million in bribes directly and indirectly to foreign officials employed by Haiti Teleco and to a foreign official in the executive branch of the Haitian government in order to secure a favorable contract and favorable treatment in connection with that contract from Haiti Teleco.  The co-conspirators funneled some of the money through third-party intermediaries and paid other money directly to officials or relatives of officials, Richers admitted.

Richers is the ninth defendant to have pled guilty or to have been convicted at trial in this case.  On April 27, 2009, Antonio Perez, a former controller at one of the Miami-based telecommunications companies, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and money laundering.  On May 15, 2009, Juan Diaz, the president of J.D. Locator Services, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and money laundering.  On Feb. 19, 2010, Jean Fourcand, the president and director of Fourcand Enterprises Inc., pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering for receiving and transmitting bribe monies in the scheme.  On March 12, 2010, Robert Antoine, a former director of international affairs for Haiti Teleco, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  On Aug. 4, 2011, Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez, who were the former president and vice-president, respectively, of one of the telecommunications companies, were convicted by a federal jury of one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and wire fraud, seven counts of FCPA violations, one count of money laundering conspiracy and 12 counts of money laundering.  On Feb. 8, 2012, Patrick Joseph, a former executive director of Haiti Teleco, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  On March 12, 2012, Jean Rene Duperval, a former director of international relations for Haiti Teleco, was convicted by a federal jury of two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 19 counts of money laundering.

Richers was indicted on July 12, 2011, but remained a fugitive until his arrest and ultimately his extradition from Panama on February 23. Richers will be sentenced on September 20.

The Department of Justice is grateful to the government of Haiti for continuing to provide substantial assistance in gathering evidence during this investigation.  In particular, Haiti’s financial intelligence unit, the Unité Centrale de Renseignements Financiers (UCREF), the Bureau des Affaires Financières et Economiques (BAFE), which is a specialized component of the Haitian National Police, and the Ministry of Justice and Public Security provided significant cooperation and coordination in this ongoing investigation.

The Department of Justice also thanks Panama for its significant assistance in this matter.

IRS-CI is conducting the investigation.  Senior Litigation Counsel Nicola Mrazek and Trial Attorney Vanessa Snyder of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance.

The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters.  Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/foreign-corrupt-practices-act.

Nine Miami-Dade Assisted Living Facility Owners Sentenced to Federal Prison for Receipt of Health Care Kickbacks

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Miami-Dade County assisted living facility owners, Marlene Marrero, 60, of Miami, Norma Casanova, 67, of Miami Lakes, Yeny De Erbiti, 51, of Miami, Rene Vega, 57, of Miami, Maribel Galvan, 43, of Miami Lakes, Dianelys Perez, 34, of Miami Gardens, Osniel Vera, 47, of Hialeah, Alicia Almeida, 56, of Miami Lakes, and Jorge Rodriguez, 57, of Hialeah, were sentenced to prison for receiving health care kickbacks. United States District Judge Marcia G. Cooke imposed sentences upon the nine defendants ranging from eight months to one year and one day, in prison. One assisted living facility owner, Blanca Orozco, 69, of Miramar, was sentenced to home confinement. In addition to their federal convictions, all ten defendants were also ordered to serve three years of supervised release, pay restitution and are subject to forfeiture judgments.

Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Pam Bondi, Florida Attorney General, Shimon R. Richmond, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.

All ten defendants previously pled guilty to receipt of kickbacks in connection with a federal health care program, in violation of Title 42, United States Code, Section 1320a-7b(b)(1)(A). According to court documents, these assisted living facility owners conspired with the former owner of Florida Pharmacy to receive kickbacks and bribes in exchange for referring beneficiaries living in their facilities for prescription medication and durable medical equipment paid for by Medicare and Medicaid. The assisted living facility owners participated in the fraudulent scheme, in violation of their Medicaid provider agreement as well as federal and state anti-kickback rules and regulations.

Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force participating partners, including HHS-OIG, the State of Florida’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and the FBI. The case was prosecution by Special Assistant United States Attorney Hagerenesh Simmons.

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operates in nine locations nationwide. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged over 3,500 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $12.5 billion.

In addition, 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.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

National Health Care Fraud Takedown Results in Charges Against Over 412 Individuals Responsible for $1.3 Billion in Fraud Losses

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Largest Health Care Fraud Enforcement Action in Department of Justice History

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, M.D., announced today the largest ever health care fraud enforcement action by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, involving 412 charged defendants across 41 federal districts, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving approximately $1.3 billion in false billings. Of those charged, over 120 defendants, including doctors, were charged for their roles in prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics. Thirty state Medicaid Fraud Control Units also participated in today’s arrests. In addition, HHS has initiated suspension actions against 295 providers, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Price were joined in the announcement by Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting Director Andrew McCabe of the FBI, Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Inspector General Daniel Levinson of the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), Chief Don Fort of IRS Criminal Investigation, Administrator Seema Verma of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and Deputy Director Kelly P. Mayo of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS).

Today’s enforcement actions were led and coordinated by the Criminal Division, Fraud Section’s Health Care Fraud Unit in conjunction with its Medicare Fraud Strike Force (MFSF) partners, a partnership between the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney’s Offices, the FBI and HHS-OIG.  In addition, the operation includes the participation of the DEA, DCIS, and State Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

The charges announced today aggressively target schemes billing Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE (a health insurance program for members and veterans of the armed forces and their families) for medically unnecessary prescription drugs and compounded medications that often were never even purchased and/or distributed to beneficiaries. The charges also involve individuals contributing to the opioid epidemic, with a particular focus on medical professionals involved in the unlawful distribution of opioids and other prescription narcotics, a particular focus for the Department. According to the CDC, approximately 91 Americans die every day of an opioid related overdose.

“Too many trusted medical professionals like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients,” said Attorney General Sessions. “Amazingly, some have made their practices into multimillion dollar criminal enterprises. They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed. Their actions not only enrich themselves often at the expense of taxpayers but also feed addictions and cause addictions to start. The consequences are real: emergency rooms, jail cells, futures lost, and graveyards.  While today is a historic day, the Department’s work is not finished. In fact, it is just beginning. We will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict, and incarcerate fraudsters and drug dealers wherever they are.”

“Healthcare fraud is not only a criminal act that costs billions of taxpayer dollars – it is an affront to all Americans who rely on our national healthcare programs for access to critical healthcare services and a violation of trust,” said Secretary Price. “The United States is home to the world’s best medical professionals, but their ability to provide affordable, high-quality care to their patients is jeopardized every time a criminal commits healthcare fraud. That is why this Administration is committed to bringing these criminals to justice, as President Trump demonstrated in his 2017 budget request calling for a new $70 million investment in the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program. The historic results of this year’s national takedown represent significant progress toward protecting the integrity and sustainability of Medicare and Medicaid, which we will continue to build upon in the years to come.”

According to court documents, the defendants allegedly participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided. In many cases, patient recruiters, beneficiaries and other co-conspirators were allegedly paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers, so that the providers could then submit fraudulent bills to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary or never performed. The number of medical professionals charged is particularly significant, because virtually every health care fraud scheme requires a corrupt medical professional to be involved in order for Medicare or Medicaid to pay the fraudulent claims.  Aggressively pursuing corrupt medical professionals not only has a deterrent effect on other medical professionals, but also ensures that their licenses can no longer be used to bilk the system.

“This week, thanks to the work of dedicated investigators and analysts, we arrested once-trusted doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals who were corrupted by greed,” said Acting Director McCabe. “The FBI is committed to working with our partners on the front lines of the fight against heath care fraud to stop those who steal from the government and deceive the American public.”

“Health care fraud is a reprehensible crime.  It not only represents a theft from taxpayers who fund these vital programs, but impacts the millions of Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid,” said Inspector General Levinson. “In the worst fraud cases, greed overpowers care, putting patients’ health at risk. OIG will continue to play a vital leadership role in the Medicare Fraud Strike Force to track down those who abuse important federal health care programs.”

“Our enforcement actions underscore the commitment of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and our partners to vigorously investigate fraud perpetrated against the DoD’s TRICARE Program. We will continue to relentlessly investigate health care fraud, ensure the taxpayers’ health care dollars are properly spent, and endeavor to guarantee our service members, military retirees, and their dependents receive the high standard of care they deserve,” advised Deputy Director Mayo.

“Last year, an estimated 59,000 Americans died from a drug overdose, many linked to the misuse of prescription drugs. This is, quite simply, an epidemic,” said Acting Administrator Rosenberg. “There is a great responsibility that goes along with handling controlled prescription drugs, and DEA and its partners remain absolutely committed to fighting the opioid epidemic using all the tools at our disposal.”

“Every defendant in today’s announcement shares one common trait – greed,” said Chief Fort. “The desire for money and material items drove these individuals to perpetrate crimes against our healthcare system and prey upon many of the vulnerable in our society.  Thanks to the financial expertise and diligence of IRS-CI special agents, who worked side-by-side with other federal, state and local law enforcement officers to uncover these schemes, these criminals are off the street and will now face the consequences of their actions.”

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operates in nine locations nationwide. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged over 3500 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $12.5 billion.

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For the Strike Force locations, in the Southern District of Florida, a total of 77 defendants were charged with offenses relating to their participation in various fraud schemes involving over $141 million in false billings for services including home health care, mental health services and pharmacy fraud.  In one case, the owner and operator of a purported addiction treatment center and home for recovering addicts and one other individual were charged in a scheme involving the submission of over $58 million in fraudulent medical insurance claims for purported drug treatment services. The allegations include actively recruiting addicted patients to move to South Florida so that the co-conspirators could bill insurance companies for fraudulent treatment and testing, in return for which, the co-conspirators offered kickbacks to patients in the form of gift cards, free airline travel, trips to casinos and strip clubs, and drugs.

In the Eastern District of Michigan, 32 defendants face charges for their alleged roles in fraud, kickback, money laundering and drug diversion schemes involving approximately $218 million in false claims for services that were medically unnecessary or never rendered. In one case, nine defendants, including six physicians, were charged with prescribing medically unnecessary controlled substances, some of which were sold on the street, and billing Medicare for $164 million in facet joint injections, drug testing, and other procedures that were medically unnecessary and/or not provided.

In the Southern District of Texas, 26 individuals were charged in cases involving over $66 million in alleged fraud. Among these defendants are a physician and a clinic owner who were indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances and three substantive counts of distribution of controlled substances in connection with a purported pain management clinic that is alleged to have been the highest prescribing hydrocodone clinic in Houston, where approximately 60-70 people were seen daily, and were issued medically unnecessary prescriptions for hydrocodone in exchange for approximately $300 cash per visit.

In the Central District of California, 17 defendants were charged for their roles in schemes to defraud Medicare out of approximately $147 million. Two of these defendants were indicted for their alleged involvement in a $41.5 million scheme to defraud Medicare and a private insurer. This was purportedly done by submitting fraudulent claims, and receiving payments for, prescription drugs that were not filled by the pharmacy nor given to patients.

In the Northern District of Illinois, 15 individuals were charged in cases related to six different schemes concerning home health care services and physical therapy fraud, kickbacks, and mail and wire fraud.  These schemes involved allegedly over $12.7 million in fraudulent billing. One case allegedly involved $7 million in fraudulent billing to Medicare for home health services that were not necessary nor rendered.

In the Middle District of Florida, 10 individuals were charged with participating in a variety of schemes involving almost $14 million in fraudulent billing.  In one case, three defendants were charged in a $4 million scheme to defraud the TRICARE program.  In that case, it is alleged that a defendant falsely represented himself to be a retired Lieutenant Commander of the United States Navy Submarine Service. It is alleged that he did so in order to gain the trust and personal identifying information from TRICARE beneficiaries, many of whom were members and veterans of the armed forces, for use in the scheme.

In the Eastern District of New York, ten individuals were charged with participating in a variety of schemes including kickbacks, services not rendered, and money laundering involving over $151 million in fraudulent billings to Medicare and Medicaid. Approximately $100 million of those fraudulent billings were allegedly part of a scheme in which five health care professionals paid illegal kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals to their own clinics.

In the Southern Louisiana Strike Force, operating in the Middle and Eastern Districts of Louisiana as well as the Southern District of Mississippi, seven defendants were charged in connection with health care fraud, wire fraud, and kickback schemes involving more than $207 million in fraudulent billing. One case involved a pharmacist who was charged with submitting and causing the submission of $192 million in false and fraudulent claims to TRICARE and other health care benefit programs for dispensing compounded medications that were not medically necessary and often based on prescriptions induced by illegal kickback payments.

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In addition to the Strike Force locations, today’s enforcement actions include cases and investigations brought by an additional 31 U.S. Attorney’s Offices, including the execution of search warrants in investigations conducted by the Eastern District of California and the Northern District of Ohio.

In the Northern and Southern Districts of Alabama, three defendants were charged for their roles in two health care fraud schemes involving pharmacy fraud and drug diversion.

In the Eastern District of Arkansas, 24 defendants were charged for their roles in three drug diversion schemes that were all investigated by the DEA.

In the Northern and Southern Districts of California, four defendants, including a physician, were charged for their roles in a drug diversion scheme and a health care fraud scheme involving kickbacks.

In the District of Connecticut, three defendants were charged in two health care fraud schemes, including a scheme involving two physicians who fraudulently billed Medicaid for services that were not rendered and for the provision of oxycodone with knowledge that the prescriptions were not medically necessary.

In the Northern and Southern Districts of Georgia, three defendants were charged in two health care fraud schemes involving nearly $1.5 million in fraudulent billing.

In the Southern District of Illinois, five defendants were charged in five separate schemes to defraud the Medicaid program.

In the Northern and Southern Districts of Indiana, at least five defendants were charged in various health care fraud schemes related to the unlawful distribution and dispensing of controlled substances, kickbacks, and services not rendered.

In the Southern District of Iowa, five defendants were charged in two schemes involving the distribution of opioids.

In the Western District of Kentucky, 11 defendants were charged with defrauding the Medicaid program.  In one case, four defendants, including three medical professionals, were charged with distributing controlled substances and fraudulently billing the Medicaid program.

In the District of Maine, an office manager was charged with embezzling funds from a medical office.

In the Eastern and Western Districts of Missouri, 16 defendants were charged in schemes involving over $16 million in claims, including 10 defendants charged as part of a scheme involving fraudulent lab testing.

In the District of Nebraska, a dentist was charged with defrauding the Medicaid program.

In the District of Nevada, two defendants, including a physician, were charged in a scheme involving false hospice claims.

In the Northern, Southern, and Western Districts of New York, five defendants, including two physicians and two pharmacists, were charged in schemes involving drug diversion and pharmacy fraud.

In the Southern District of Ohio, five defendants, including four physicians, were charged in connection with schemes involving $12 million in claims to the Medicaid program.

In the District of Puerto Rico, 13 defendants, including three physicians and two pharmacists, were charged in four schemes involving drug diversion, Medicaid fraud, and the theft of funds from a health care program.

In the Eastern District of Tennessee, three defendants were charged in a scheme involving fraudulent billings and the distribution of opioids.

In the Eastern, Northern, and Western Districts of Texas, nine defendants were charged in schemes involving over $42 million in fraudulent billing, including a scheme involving false claims for compounded medications.

In the District of Utah, a nurse practitioner was charged in connection with fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance, tampering with a consumer product, and infecting over seven individuals with Hepatitis C.

In the Eastern District of Virginia, a defendant was charged in connection with a scheme involving identify theft and fraudulent billings to the Medicaid program.

In addition, in the states of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Washington, 96 defendants have been charged in criminal and civil actions with defrauding the Medicaid program out of over $31 million. These cases were investigated by each state’s respective Medicaid Fraud Control Units. In addition, the Medicaid Fraud Control Units of the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Utah participated in the investigation of many of the federal cases discussed above.

The cases announced today are being prosecuted and investigated by U.S. Attorney’s Offices nationwide, along with Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams from the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices of the Southern District of Florida, Eastern District of Michigan, Eastern District of New York, Southern District of Texas, Central District of California, Eastern District of Louisiana, Northern District of Texas, Northern District of Illinois and the Middle District of Florida; and agents from the FBI, HHS-OIG, Drug Enforcement Administration, DCIS and state Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

A complaint, information, or indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Additional documents related to this announcement will shortly be available here: https://www.justice.gov/opa/documents-and-resources-july-13-2017.

This operation also highlights the great work being done by the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.  In the past fiscal year, the Department of Justice, including the Civil Division, has collectively won or negotiated over $2.5 billion in judgements and settlements related to matters alleging health care fraud.

Co-Owners of Miami Home Health Agencies Sentenced to Over 10 Years in Prison for $20 Million Fraud Scheme

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A mother and daughter who secretly co-owned and operated seven home health care agencies in the Miami, Florida area were each sentenced to over 10 years in prison today for their roles in a $20 million Medicare fraud conspiracy that involved paying illegal health care kickbacks to patient recruiters and medical professionals.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Brian Swain of the U.S. Secret Service’s Miami Regional Office and Special Agent in Charge Shimon R. Richmond of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office made the announcement.

Mildrey Gonzalez, 61, and her daughter, Milka Alfaro, 39, both of Miami, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez of the Southern District of Florida to 135 and 151 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in the scheme. The defendants were further ordered to pay approximately $22,900,000 in joint and several restitution. Gonzalez and Alfaro each pleaded guilty on March 2, having been charged in a July 2016 superseding indictment. Gonzalez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of health care fraud, while Alfaro pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud.

Alfaro and Gonzalez previously admitted that they secretly co-owned and operated seven home health agencies in the Miami area, yet failed to disclose their ownership interests in any of these agencies to Medicare, as required by relevant rules and regulations. In addition, Alfaro and Gonzalez admitted to paying illegal health care kickbacks to a network of patient recruiters in order to bring Medicare beneficiaries into the scheme, to paying bribes and kickbacks to medical professionals in return for providing home health referrals, and to directing co-conspirators to open shell corporations, into which millions of dollars’ worth of fraud proceeds were funneled. Furthermore, Alfaro and Gonzalez each admitted to perjuring themselves at a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman of the Southern District of Florida, to attempting to influence the testimony of potential trial witnesses, and to submitting false affidavits concerning their assets to the court.

This case was investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service and HHS-OIG. Former Fraud Section Trial Attorney and current Southern District of Florida Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa H. Miller and Fraud Section Trial Attorney L. Rush Atkinson prosecuted the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Evelyn B. Sheehan and Alison W. Lehr also provided assistance regarding asset forfeiture issues in this case.

The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,300 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $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.

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.

Miami-Area Certified Nursing Assistant Sentenced to 150 Months in Prison for Role in $200 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

A Miami licensed nursing assistant was sentenced today to serve 150 months in prison for participating in a $200 million Medicare fraud scheme involving fraudulent billings by American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC), a mental health company headquartered in Miami.

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 Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Florida region made the announcement.

Rodolfo Santaya, 55, of Miami, was convicted on July 18, 2014, after a six-day jury trial, of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive bribes and kickbacks, and two counts of receipt of bribes and kickbacks in connection with a federal health care benefit program.  In addition to the prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez of the Southern District of Florida ordered Santaya to pay more than $18.2 million in restitution.

Evidence at trial demonstrated that, between 2006 and 2010, Santaya was paid thousands of dollars a month in cash kickbacks in exchange for referring Medicare beneficiaries to ATC, which operated purported partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) in seven locations throughout South Florida and Orlando.  A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness.

Evidence at trial also demonstrated that the Medicare beneficiaries Santaya sent to ATC did not need, qualify for, nor receive PHP treatment.  Nevertheless, ATC submitted false and fraudulent bills to Medicare for services purportedly provided to each of Santaya’s patients.  In order to justify ATC’s fraudulent billings, medical professionals, including doctors, fabricated and signed fraudulent medical documentation and patient files.

ATC, an associated management company, and more than 20 individuals, including ATC’s owners, have all previously pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial.  Santaya has been in federal custody since his conviction.

The case is being 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.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Robert A. Zink and Trial Attorneys Nicholas E. Surmacz and 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.

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

Miami-Area Hospital Chief Operating Officer Pleads Guilty in $67 Million Mental Health Care Fraud Scheme

The former chief operating officer of a Miami-area hospital pleaded guilty today for his role in a mental health care fraud scheme that resulted in the submission of more than $67 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare by a state-licensed psychiatric hospital located in Hollywood, Florida, that purported to offer both inpatient and outpatient mental health services.

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. Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Florida region made the announcement.

Christopher Gabel, 61, of Davie, Florida, the former Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Hollywood Pavilion LLC (HP), pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay and receive health care kickbacks.  Gabel was charged in an indictment returned on May 8, 2014.

According to Gabel’s admissions in connection with his guilty plea, between April 2003 and September 2012, HP submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for treatment that was not medically necessary or not provided to patients.  As COO during that time, Gabel supervised HP’s staff at both its inpatient and outpatient facilities, where Medicare beneficiaries were admitted to HP regardless of whether they qualified for mental health treatment, and were often admitted before seeing a doctor.

Gabel admitted that HP obtained Medicare beneficiaries from across the country by paying bribes and kickbacks to various patient brokers.  Gabel instructed the patient brokers to falsify invoices and marketing reports in an effort to hide, and cover up the true nature of the bribes and kickbacks they were receiving from HP.  From 2003 through August 2012, HP billed Medicare approximately $67 million for services that were not properly rendered, for patients that did not qualify for the services being billed, and for claims for patients who were procured through bribes and kickbacks.  Medicare reimbursed HP nearly $40 million for those claims.

Karen Kallen-Zury, Daisy Miller, Michele Petrie and Christian Coloma were convicted at trial in June 2013 for their roles in this scheme.  Kallen-Zury, HP’s former chief executive officer, was sentenced to 25 years in prison.  Miller, the clinical director of HP’s inpatient facility, was sentenced to 15 years in prison; and Petrie, the head of HP’s intensive outpatient program, was sentenced to six years in prison.  Coloma, the director of physical therapy for an entity associated with HP, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.  Kallen-Zury, Miller and Petrie were ordered to pay nearly $40 million in restitution, and Coloma was ordered to pay more than $20 million in restitution.

The case is being 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.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Nicholas E. Surmacz, Andrew H. Warren and L. Rush Atkinson 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.