Six South Florida residents have been indicted for their alleged participation in a $6.2 million Medicare fraud scheme involving defunct home health care company Professional Medical Home Health LLC (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 Acting 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.
On Sept. 25, 2014, a federal grand jury in Miami returned a 14-count indictment charging Ernesto Fernandez, 48, Dennis Hernandez, 32, Jose Alvarez, 47, and Joel San Pedro, 44, all of Miami; Alina Hernandez, 38, of West Palm Beach; and Juan Valdes, 37, of Palm Springs, for their roles in defrauding Medicare and soliciting and receiving health care kickbacks.
According to allegations in the indictment, the defendants recruited patients for Professional Home Health, a Miami home health care agency. As part of the scheme, the defendants solicited and received kickbacks from the owners and operators of Professional Home Health in exchange for providing beneficiaries for home health services that were not medically necessary or not provided. The defendants and their co-conspirators also allegedly falsified patient documentation to support the fraudulent billing. From December 2008 through February 2014, Medicare paid Professional Home Health more than $6.2 million for these fraudulent home health care claims.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Two other individuals have already pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme. Annarella Garcia, an owner of Professional Home Health, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and on Aug. 26, 2014, she was sentenced to serve 70 months in prison and ordered to pay $6,257,142 in restitution. Annilet Dominguez, an administrator of Professional Home Health, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and three counts of false statements related to health care matters. On Sept. 29, 2014, she was sentenced to serve 68 months in prison and ordered to pay $6,257,149 in restitution.
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 Attorneys Anne P. McNamara and A. Brendan Stewart 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 and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.