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.