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.

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.

Owner of Miami Home Health Company Pleads Guilty for Role in $30 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

An owner of a Miami home health care company pleaded guilty today for his role in a $30 million home health 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 before U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.  Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 21, 2015.

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 were 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 November 2012, Nation’s Best submitted approximately $35 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 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 Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

Unlicensed Miami Clinic Nurse Convicted at Trial and Sentenced for Role in $11 Million HIV Infusion Fraud Scheme

An unlicensed nurse who fled after being charged in 2008 and was captured this year was sentenced today to serve 108 months in prison for her role in a fraud scheme that resulted in more than $11 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Steinbach 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 made the announcement.
Carmen Gonzalez, 39, of Cape Coral, Fla.,  worked at St. Jude Rehabilitation Center, a fraudulent HIV infusion clinic in Miami, that was controlled by her cousins, Jose, Carlos and Luis Benitez, aka the Benitez Brothers.   Gonzalez was also sentenced for failing to appear at a June 2008 bond hearing.    The sentencing follows her conviction at trial to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States to cause the submission of false claims and to pay health care kickbacks and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.    Gonzalez had previously pleaded guilty to a separate charge of failure to appear.
Gonzalez was sentenced by Chief United States District Judge Federico A. Moreno in Miami, who also sentenced her to  serve three years of supervised release.
Evidence at trial revealed that Gonzalez was an unlicensed nurse who paid thousands of dollars over a five month period to HIV beneficiaries so that St. Jude could submit millions of dollars in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare.   Gonzalez knew that St. Jude billed millions of dollars to Medicare for expensive HIV infusion therapy that was neither medically necessary nor provided.    Gonzalez fabricated patient medical records to facilitate and conceal the fraud, and these fabricated records were utilized to support the false and fraudulent claims submitted to Medicare on behalf of St. Jude.
On Oct. 17, 2013, Gonzalez pleaded guilty to knowingly and willfully failing to appear at a June 2008 hearing as directed by Judge Moreno.    Court documents reveal that Gonzalez was released on bond pending trial, but she knowingly and willfully failed to appear as directed by the court to a June 2008 hearing.
In January 2013, Gonzalez’s father, Enrique Gonzalez, was sentenced to 70 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida for his role in separate health care fraud conspiracy.
The Benitez Brothers remain fugitives.    Anyone with information regarding their whereabouts is urged to contact HHS-OIG at 202-619-0088.
The 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 was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Allan Medina and Nathan Dimock 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 more than 1,700 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 billion.    In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with 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 .

Health Care Clinic Director Sentenced for Role in $63 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

A former health care clinic director and licensed clinical psychologist at defunct health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN) was sentenced today in Miami to serve 135 months in prison for her central role in a fraud scheme that resulted in more than $63 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare and Florida Medicaid.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Steinbach of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the Miami office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) made the announcement.

Alina Feas, 53, of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida.  In addition to her prison term, Feas was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $24.1 million in restitution.

On May 7, 2013, Feas pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one substantive health care fraud count. During the course of the conspiracy, Feas was employed as a therapist and clinical director of HCSN’s Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP).  A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness.          HCSN of Florida (HCSN-FL) operated community mental health centers at two locations.  In her capacity as clinical director, Feas oversaw the entire clinical program and supervised therapists and other HCSN-FL personnel.  She also conducted group therapy sessions when therapists were absent, and she was aware that HCSN-FL paid illegal kickbacks to owners and operators of Miami-Dade County Assisted Living Facilities (ALF) in exchange for patient referral information to be used to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid.  Feas also knew that many of the ALF referral patients were ineligible for PHP services because many patients suffered from mental retardation, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Feas submitted claims to Medicare for individual therapy she purportedly provided to HCSN-FL patients using her personal Medicare provider number, knowing that HCSN-FL was simultaneously billing the same patients for PHP services.  She continued to bill Medicare under her personal provider number while an HCSN community health center in North Carolina (HCSN-NC) simultaneously submitted false and fraudulent PHP claims.

Feas was also aware that HCSN-FL personnel were fabricating patient medical records. Many of these medical records were created weeks or months after the patients were admitted to HCSN-FL for purported PHP treatment and were used to support false and fraudulent billing to government-sponsored health care benefit programs, including Medicare and Florida Medicaid.  During her employment at HCSN-FL, Feas signed fabricated PHP therapy notes and other medical records used to support false claims to government-sponsored health care programs.

At HCSN-NC, Feas was aware that her co-conspirators were fabricating medical records to support the fraudulent claims she was causing to be submitted to Medicare on behalf of HCSN-NC. She knew that a majority of the fabricated notes were created at the HCSN-FL facility for patients admitted into the PHP at HCSN-NC.  In some instances, Feas signed therapy notes and other medical records even though she never provided services in HCSN-NC’s PHP.

From 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Medicaid program more than $63 million for purported mental health services.

This case is being 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 was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Allan J. Medina, former Special Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina, and Deputy Chief Benjamin D. Singer 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 more than 1,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion.  In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Supervisor of $63 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme Sentenced in Florida to 10 Years in Prison

A former supervisor at defunct health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN) was sentenced today in Miami to serve 10 years in prison for her central role in a fraud scheme that resulted in more than $63 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare and Florida Medicaid.

The sentence was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Michael B. Steinbach, 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.

Wondera Eason, 51, of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida.  In addition to her prison term, Eason was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $14,985,876 in restitution.

On April 25, 2013, a federal jury found Eason guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Eason was employed as the director of medical records at HCSN’s partial hospitalization program (PHP).  A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. In Florida, HCSN operated community mental health centers at two locations. After stealing millions from Medicare and Medicaid in Florida, HCSN’s owner, Armando Gonzalez, expanded the scheme to North Carolina, opening a third HCSN location in Hendersonville, N.C.

Evidence at trial showed that at all three locations, Eason, a certified medical records technician, oversaw the alteration, fabrication and forgery of thousands of documents that purported to support the fraudulent claims HCSN submitted to Medicare and Medicaid.  Many of these medical records were created weeks or months after the patients were admitted to HCSN facilities in Florida for purported PHP treatment and were utilized to support false and fraudulent billing to government-sponsored health care benefit programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. Eason directed therapists to fabricate documents, and she also forged the signatures of therapists and others on documents that she was in charge of maintaining.  Eason interacted with Medicare and Medicaid auditors, providing them with false and fraudulent documents, while certifying the documents were accurate.

The “therapy” at HCSN oftentimes consisted of nothing more than patients watching Disney movies, playing bingo and having barbeques. Eason directed therapists to remove any references to these recreational activities in the medical records.

According to evidence at trial, Eason was aware that HCSN in Florida paid illegal kickbacks to owners and operators of Miami-Dade County assisted living facilities (ALF) in exchange for patient referral information to be used to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid.  Eason also knew that many of the ALF referral patients were ineligible for PHP services because many patients suffered from mental retardation, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

From 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Medicaid program more than $63 million for purported mental health services.

Fifteen defendants have been charged and have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury for their roles in the HCSN health care fraud scheme.

This case is being 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 was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina, former Special Trial Attorney William Parente and Deputy Chief Benjamin D. Singer 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 more than 1,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion.  In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

 

Community Health Center Program Coordinator Sentenced to 70 Months for Role in $63 Million Fraud Scheme

WASHINGTON – A former program coordinator at the defunct health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN) was sentenced in Miami to 70 months in prison today for her role in a $63 million fraud scheme.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Michael B. Steinbach, 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, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga.

Dana Gonzalez, 43, of High Point, N.C., pleaded guilty on March 6, 2013, to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. In addition to the prison sentence, Gonzalez was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $19,428,120 in restitution.

During the course of the conspiracy, Gonzalez was employed as a therapist and program coordinator of HCSN’s Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP).  A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness.

According to court documents, HCSN of Florida (HCSN-FL) operated community mental health centers at two locations.  Gonzalez was aware that HCSN-FL paid illegal kickbacks to owners and operators of Miami-Dade County Assisted Living Facilities (ALF) in exchange for patient referral information to be used to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid.

Gonzalez admitted that she routinely fabricated medical records for purported mental health treatment that were used to support false and fraudulent claims to health care benefit programs, including Medicare and Medicaid.  Gonzalez admitted that she routinely fabricated these medical records, despite knowing that many of the ALF referral patients were ineligible for PHP services because many patients suffered from mental retardation, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  Gonzalez, an unlicensed clinical social worker intern at the time, also admitted to providing unlicensed therapy to PHP patients when licensed therapists were absent.

In total, Gonzalez admitted that during her employment at HCSN, she and her co-conspirators submitted approximately $46,959,975 in false and fraudulent claims. According to court documents, from 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Florida Medicaid program approximately $63 million for purported mental health services.

This 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. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina and former Special Trial Attorney William J. Parente of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. In support of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, the FBI Criminal Investigative Division’s Financial Crimes Section has funded the Special Trial Attorney position.

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.

Health Care Clinic Director Pleads Guilty in Miami for Role in $63 Million Fraud Scheme

A former health care clinic director and licensed clinical psychologist pleaded guilty today in connection with a health care fraud scheme involving defunct health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN), announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Michael B. Steinbach, 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.

Alina Feas, 53, of Miami, 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 substantive count of health care fraud.

During the course of the conspiracy, Feas was employed as a therapist and clinical director of HCSN’s Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP).  A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness.  HCSN operated two community mental health centers in Florida and one community mental health center in North Carolina.

In her capacity as clinical director, Feas oversaw the entire clinical program and supervised therapists and other personnel at HCSN in Florida (HCSN-FL).  Feas also conducted group therapy sessions when therapists were absent.

According to court documents, Feas was aware that HCSN-FL paid illegal kickbacks to owners and operators of assisted living facilities (ALF) in Miami-Dade County in exchange for patient referral information to be used to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid.  Feas knew that many of the ALF referral patients were ineligible for PHP services because they suffered from either mental retardation, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, which are not effectively treated by PHP services.

Court documents reveal that Feas submitted claims to Medicare for individual therapy she purportedly provided to HCSN-FL patients using her personal Medicare provider number, knowing that HCSN-FL was simultaneously billing the same patients for PHP services.  Feas continued to bill Medicare under her personal provider number while HCSN in North Carolina (HCSN-NC) simultaneously submitted false and fraudulent PHP claims.

Feas was aware that HCSN-FL personnel were fabricating patient medical records, according to court documents. Many of these medical records were created weeks or months after the patients were admitted to HCSN-FL for purported PHP treatment and were utilized to support false and fraudulent billing to government sponsored health care benefit programs, including Medicare and Florida Medicaid.  During her employment at HCSN-FL, Feas signed fabricated PHP therapy notes and other medical records used to support false claims to government sponsored health care programs.

At HCSN-NC, Feas was aware that her co-conspirators were fabricating medical records to support the fraudulent claims she was causing to be submitted to Medicare.  Feas was aware that a majority of the fabricated notes were created at the HCSN-FL facility for patients admitted to HCSN-NC.  In some instances, Feas signed therapy notes and other medical records even though she never provided services at HCSN-NC.

According to court documents, from 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Florida Medicaid program approximately $63 million for purported mental health services.

Fifteen defendants have been charged for their alleged roles in the HCSN health care fraud scheme, and 13 defendants have pleaded guilty.  On April 25, 2013, Wondera Eason was convicted, following a five-day jury trial, on one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud for her role in the scheme at HCSN.  Alleged co-conspirator Lisset Palmero is scheduled for trial on June 3, 2013.  Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial.

This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina and former Special Trial Attorney William J. Parente.  This case is being 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.

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.

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

Former Registered Nurse Sentenced in Miami to 111 Months in Prison in Connection with $63 Million Mental Health Care Fraud Scheme

A former registered nurse was sentenced today to serve 111 months in prison for his role in a health care fraud scheme involving defunct health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN), 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, 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.

John Thoen, 53, of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida.  In addition to his prison term, Thoen was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release.

On Nov. 20, 2012, Thoen pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to court documents, HCSN operated community mental health centers (CMHC) at three locations in Miami-Dade County, Fla., and one location in Hendersonville, N.C.  HCSN purported to provide partial hospitalization program (PHP) services to individuals suffering from mental illness.  A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness.  According to court documents, HCSN obtained Medicare beneficiaries to attend HCSN for purported PHP treatment that was unnecessary and, in many instances, not even provided.  HCSN obtained those beneficiaries in Miami by paying kickbacks to owners and operators of assisted living facilities.

According to court documents, Thoen was a licensed registered nurse in both Florida and North Carolina.  In Florida, Thoen participated in the admission to HCSN of patients who were ineligible for PHP services.  Thoen participated in the routine fabrication of patient medical records that were utilized to support false and fraudulent billing to government sponsored health care benefit programs, including Medicare and Medicaid.

In North Carolina, Thoen, according to court documents, routinely submitted fraudulent PHP claims for Medicare patients who were not even present at the CMHC on days PHP services were purportedly rendered.  Thoen also caused the submission of fraudulent Medicare claims on days the CMHC was closed due to snow.

Thoen also admitted to his role in a money laundering scheme, involving Psychiatric Consulting Network Inc. (PCN), a Florida corporation that was utilized by HCSN as a shell corporation to launder health care fraud proceeds.  According to court documents, Thoen was president of PCN.

According to court documents, from 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Florida Medicaid program approximately $63 million for purported mental health services.

Fifteen defendants have been charged for their alleged roles in the HCSN health care fraud scheme, and nine defendants have pleaded guilty.  Alleged co-conspirators Wondera Eason and Paul Layman are scheduled for trial on March 11, 2013, before Judge Altonaga in Miami.  And alleged co-conspirators Alina Feas, Dana Gonzalez, Gema Pampin and Lisset Palmero are scheduled for trial on June 3, 2013.  Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial.

The cases are being prosecuted by Special Trial Attorney William Parente and Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. This 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.  In support of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, the FBI Criminal Investigative Division’s Financial Crimes Section has funded the Special Trial Attorney position.

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.

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

Four Sentenced to Prison in Florida Community Mental Health Center Case

The owners of three Miami-area assisted living facilities and an affiliated psychologist were sentenced to prison today in connection with a health care fraud scheme, involving now-defunct Miami-area health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN), in which Medicare was billed for mental health treatments that were unnecessary or not provided.

The sentences were announced by 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.

U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga sentenced Serena Joslin, 32, of Looneyville, W.Va., to 63 months in prison, following her previous guilty plea to conspiracy to commit health care fraud.  Raymond Rivero, 55, Daniel Martinez, 46, and Ivon Perez, 50, all of Miami, were each sentenced to 28 months in prison.  All three had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the anti-kickback statute.

According to court documents, HCSN operated community mental health centers both in Miami and North Carolina, including partial hospitalization programs (PHP) – a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness.  HCSN obtained Medicare beneficiaries to attend HCSN for purported PHP treatment that was unnecessary and, in many instances, not provided.

In Miami, HCSN obtained beneficiaries by paying kickbacks to owners and operators of assisted living facilities (ALF) or by otherwise recruiting them from the facilities and from nursing homes.  Rivero, Martinez and Perez admitted during their guilty pleas to referring Medicare beneficiaries to HCSN in exchange for cash bribes.  Rivero, former owner of Miami-based God Is First ALF; Martinez, former owner of Homestead, Fla.-based Mi Renacer ALF; and Perez, former owner of Homestead-based Kayleen and Denis Care Corp., are no longer permitted to operate such facilities as a condition of their guilty pleas.

According to court documents, ALF residents referred to HCSN by Rivero, Martinez and Perez were not qualified to be placed in PHP and were only selected because they had Medicare or state of Florida Medicaid benefits.  In some cases, ALF patients suffered from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or mental retardation, or were otherwise unable to benefit from mental health services.

According to court documents, Joslin, a licensed psychologist, was hired by HCSN in North Carolina in April of 2010 as a clinical coordinator and later promoted to clinical director. In those roles, she conspired with other HCSN employees to fabricate medical documents to substantiate alleged PHP treatment that was medically unnecessary and, in many instances, not even provided to the beneficiaries.  Joslin admitted that many of the HCSN patients were unqualified for the PHP program because they suffered from conditions such as mental retardation and dementia, and that she directed therapists to fabricate medical records to support HCSN’s fraudulent billing to the Medicare program.  Joslin was also required to surrender her North Carolina license to provide mental health treatment as part of her plea agreement.

According to court documents, from 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Florida Medicaid program approximately $63 million for purported mental health services.

In addition to the prison terms, Judge Altonaga sentenced Joslin, Rivero, Martinez and Perez each to serve three years of supervised release, and ordered them to pay $4,464,728; $90,896; $76,358; and $89,245 in restitution, respectively.

The cases are being prosecuted by Special Trial Attorney William Parente and Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.  The cases were investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and were 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.

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.