WASHINGTON – A former clinical director for Biscayne Milieu, a Miami-based mental-health clinic, was sentenced today to 100 months in prison for his participation in a Medicare fraud scheme involving the submission of more than $50 million in fraudulent billings to Medicare, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami Office.
Rafael Alalu, 47, of Miami, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. in the Southern District of Florida. Alalu was convicted on Aug. 24, 2012, of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and two substantive counts of health care fraud, following a two-month jury trial. The evidence at trial showed that Alalu participated in treating ineligible patients, concealing that fact by falsifying patient files and writing fraudulent group therapy notes, and instructing others to do the same. In addition to the prison term, Alalu was ordered to pay more than $5.6 million in restitution, jointly and severally with his co-defendants.
Various owners, doctors, managers, therapists, patient brokers and other employees of Biscayne Milieu have also been charged with various health care fraud, kickback, money laundering and other offenses in two indictments unsealed in September 2011 and May 2012. Biscayne Milieu, its owners, and more than 25 of the individual defendants charged in these cases have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial. Antonio and Jorge Macli and Sandra Huarte – the owners and operators of Biscayne Milieu – and Dr. Gary Kushner – its medical director – were each convicted at trial of various offenses and are scheduled for sentencing in March 2013.
According to the evidence at trial, the defendants and their co-conspirators caused the submission of over $50 million dollars in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare through Biscayne Milieu, which purportedly operated a partial hospitalization program (PHP) – a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. Instead, the defendants devised a scheme in which they paid patient recruiters to refer ineligible Medicare beneficiaries to Biscayne Milieu for services that were never provided. Many of the patients admitted to Biscayne Milieu were not eligible for PHP because they were chronic substance abusers, suffered from severe dementia and would not benefit from group therapy, or had no mental health diagnosis but were seeking exemptions for their U.S. citizenship applications. The evidence at trial showed that once these ineligible patients were admitted to Biscayne Milieu, Alalu and others concealed the fraud by falsifying patients’ group therapy notes to reflect legitimate PHP treatment that was never provided, and directed others to do so.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Davis and Marlene Rodriguez of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, and by Trial Attorney James V. Hayes of the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. The case was investigated by the FBI with the assistance of HHS-OIG, and was brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida in coordination with the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by 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 more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.