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 Dennis of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Office of Investigations Miami Office made the announcement after the case was unsealed following the defendants’ arrests this morning.
On Sept. 24, 2013, a federal grand jury in Miami returned an 11-count indictment charging Marianela Martinez, 45; Mireya Amechazurra, 49; Lissett Jo-Moure, 55; Omar Hernandez, 48; and Celia Santovenia, 49, each with one count of conspiracy to receive health care kickbacks and two counts of receiving kickbacks in connection with a Federal health care program. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison upon conviction.
According to the indictment, the defendants participated in a scheme involving Caring Nurse Home Health Care Corp. (Caring Nurse) and Good Quality Home Health Inc. (Good Quality), Miami home health care agencies that purported to provide home health and therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries. The defendants allegedly referred Medicare beneficiaries to Caring Nurse and/or Good Quality in exchange for kickbacks, knowing that Caring Nurse and/or Good Quality would in turn bill Medicare for home health services purportedly rendered for the recruited Medicare beneficiaries.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted.
In a related case, on Feb. 27, 2013, Rogelio Rodriguez and Raymond Aday, the owners and operators of Caring Nurse and Good Quality, were sentenced to 108 and 51 months in prison, respectively. The sentencings followed their December 2012 guilty pleas to one count each of conspiracy to commit health care fraud charged in an October 2012 indictment, which alleged that from approximately January 2006 through June 2011, Caring Nurse and Good Quality submitted approximately $48 million in claims for home health services that were not medically necessary and/or not provided. Medicare paid approximately $33 million for those fraudulent claims.
The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under 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 Assistant Chief Joseph S. Beemsterboer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,500 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $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.