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.

Five Florida Residents Plead Guilty for Roles in $6 Million Miami Home Health Care Fraud Scheme

Five South Florida residents pleaded guilty this week 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 also pleaded guilty 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.

Dennis Hernandez, 32, of Miami, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and Juan Valdes, 37, of Palm Springs, Florida, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and receive health care kickbacks before U.S. Magistrate Judge Chris M. McAliley of the Southern District of Florida on Nov. 10. 2014.  Jose Alvarez, 48, and Joel San Pedro, 44, both of Miami, and Alina Hernandez, 38, of West Palm Beach, Florida, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud on Nov. 13, 2014 before Judge McAliley.  Sentencing hearings are set for Jan. 29, 2015.

According to admissions in their plea agreements, Dennis Hernandez, San Pedro and Alvarez held positions of influence at Professional Home Health, including those of owner/operator and manager/supervisor.  Through Professional Home Health, they billed the Medicare program for expensive physical therapy and home health services that were not medically necessary or were not provided.  The three defendants admitted that they and their co-conspirators coordinated 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.

Additionally, each of the five defendants admitted to being 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.

Dennis Hernandez and Alvarez also admitted to participating in similar criminal conduct at additional Miami-area home health agencies.

From December 2008 through February 2014, Medicare paid Professional Home Health more than $6.2 million for these 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 serve 70 months in prison.  Annilet Dominguez, an administrator of Professional Home Health, was sentenced to serve 68 months in prison.  Both were also ordered to pay $6,257,142 million 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 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 2,000 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.

Owner and Administrator of Two Miami Home Health Companies Sentenced to 80 Months in Prison for $74 Million Fraud Scheme

The owner and administrator of two Miami home health care companies was sentenced today to serve 80 months in prison for her participation in a $74 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.  U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke in the Southern District of Florida imposed the sentence.

Elsa Ruiz, 45, of Miami, pleaded guilty in July 2014 to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.  In addition to the prison sentence, Ruiz was ordered to pay $45 million in restitution.

Ruiz was an owner and operator of Professional Home Care Solutions Inc. and an administrator of LTC Professional Consultants Inc., both of which purported to provide home health and therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries.  According to admissions during her plea hearing, Ruiz and her co-conspirators operated LTC and Professional Home Care 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.

According to her admissions, Ruiz’s primary role in the scheme was to negotiate and pay kickbacks to patient recruiters and to otherwise oversee the schemes operating out of LTC and Professional Home Care.  Specifically, Ruiz and her co-conspirators paid kickbacks to patient recruiters for the referral of patients and for the provision of prescriptions, plans of care, and certifications for medically unnecessary therapy and home health services.  Ruiz and her co-conspirators used these prescriptions, plans of care, and medical certifications to fraudulently bill the Medicare program for home health care services.

From approximately January 2006 to June 2012, LTC and Professional Home Care submitted approximately $74 million in claims for home health services that were not medically necessary or not provided, and Medicare paid approximately $45 million on those claims.

The case is being investigated by HHS-OIG and the FBI 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 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.