Wednesday, February 28, 2018
The owner and operator of numerous Miami, Florida-area home health agencies was sentenced to 240 months in prison today for his role in a $66 million conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program.
Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Robert F. Lasky of the FBI’s Miami Field 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 Field Office made the announcement.
Rafael Arias, 52, of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga of the Southern District of Florida, who ordered Arias to pay $66.4 million in restitution and to forfeit the gross proceeds traced to the offense. Arias pleaded guilty on Nov. 30, 2017, to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud.
“Today’s sentencing sends a clear message to anyone who is considering defrauding the Medicare system: You will not only be caught, prosecuted, and sent to prison, but you will also have to pay back all of your ill-gotten gains,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.
“Arias assumed that in Medicare fraud lay a path to riches,” said Special Agent in Charge Richmond. “Instead he discovered that we are working tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to protect patients and taxpayers while holding criminals accountable for their unlawful actions.”
As part of his guilty plea, Arias admitted that, between December 2007 and September 2015, he was the owner and operator of more than 20 home health agencies. In many cases, however, Arias recruited nominee owners to falsely and fraudulently represent themselves as the agencies’ owners to hide his identity and ownership interest. Arias and his co-conspirators paid illegal bribes and kickbacks to patient recruiters to refer patients to these agencies, and submitted false and fraudulent home health care claims to Medicare for beneficiaries who, in many cases, did not qualify or for whom the services were never provided. In addition, Arias provided checks to other individuals and entities to cash so that Arias and his co-conspirators could obtain fraud proceeds to benefit themselves and further the fraudulent scheme.
Arias was charged along with Aylen Gonzalez, 39, of Hialeah, Florida; Ana Gabriela Mursuli Caballero, 51, of Miami; and Rafael Cabrera, 51, of Miami, in a July 2017 indictment. Gonzalez, a patient recruiter who owned a medical clinic and co-owned two home health agencies, pleaded guilty in November 2017 to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud and was sentenced to 180 months in prison. Mursuli Caballero, a patient recruiter and owner of two home health agencies, pleaded guilty in October 2017 to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud and was sentenced to 115 months in prison. Cabrera, who participated in laundering and concealing the proceeds from the fraud, pleaded guilty in November 2017 to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and was sentenced to 71 months in prison.
This case was investigated by 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. Trial Attorneys Angela Adams and Jessica Collins of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuted the case.
The 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 3,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $12.5 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.