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; 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; and Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael J. DePalma of the Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Miami Field Office made the announcement.
Roberto Marrero, 60, of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore in the Southern District of Florida. In September 2013, Marrero pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to receive and pay health care kickbacks.
Marrero was an owner and operator of Trust Care, a Miami home health care agency that purported to provide home health and physical therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries.
Co-conspirators Sandra Fernandez Viera, 49, Patricia Morcate, 34, and Enrique Rodriguez, 59, all of Miami, have also pleaded guilty to related charges, including conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to receive and pay health care kickbacks. On Nov. 13, 2013, Fernandez Viera was sentenced to serve 120 months in prison; Morcate was sentenced to serve 60 months; and Rodriguez was sentenced to serve 57 months.
Together with Marrero, Fernandez Viera was an owner and operator of Trust Care. Morcate worked at and was an investor in Trust Care. Rodriguez served as a patient recruiter on behalf of Trust Care.
According to court documents, Marrero and his co-conspirators operated Trust 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 and/or were not provided.
Marrero primarily controlled Trust Care and, in light of that role, oversaw the schemes operating out of the company. Marrero was also responsible for negotiating and paying kickbacks and bribes, interacting with patient recruiters, and coordinating and overseeing the submission of fraudulent claims to the Medicare program.
Marrero and his co-conspirators paid kickbacks and bribes to patient recruiters in return for the recruiters providing patients to Trust Care for home health and therapy services that were medically unnecessary and/or not provided. Marrero and his co-conspirators at Trust Care also paid kickbacks and bribes to co-conspirators in doctors’ offices and clinics in exchange for home health and therapy prescriptions, medical certifications and other documentation. Marrero and his co-conspirators used these prescriptions, medical certifications and other documentation to fraudulently bill the Medicare program for home health care services, which Marrero knew was in violation of federal criminal laws.
From approximately March 2007 through at least October 2010, Trust Care submitted more than $20 million in claims for home health services. Medicare paid Trust Care more than $15 million for these fraudulent claims.
Marrero and his co-conspirators have also acknowledged their involvement in similar fraudulent schemes at several other Miami health care agencies in addition to Trust Care with estimated total losses of approximately $50 million. Those agencies include A&B Health Services Inc. , Centrum Home Health Care Inc., Global Nursing Home Health Inc., Lovable Home Health Services Corp., New Concepts In Health Inc., Nursemed Home Care Corp., R&M Health Care Inc., Ubieta Health System Inc., and Vital Care Home Health Services Inc.
The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, with the assistance of IRS-CI, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force initiative, 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 Attorney 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 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.