WASHINGTON –A registered nurse pleaded guilty today and a former program coordinator pleaded guilty yesterday in connection with 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, 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.
John Thoen, 53, of Miami, pleaded guilty today 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 commit money laundering. Alexandra Haynes, 36, of Taylor, S.C., pleaded guilty yesterday before Judge Altonaga to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud in the same case.
According to court documents, HCSN operated community mental health centers (CMHC) at three locations 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 an indictment unsealed on May 2, 2012, 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, Haynes was employed in Miami as an intake specialist and routinely fabricated patient medical records. In North Carolina, Haynes was employed as a program coordinator and conducted group therapy sessions and fabricated corresponding group therapy notes even though she was not licensed to provide mental health services in the state.
According to court documents, from 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Florida Medicaid program approximately $63 million for purported mental health services.
Nine defendants have been charged for their alleged roles in the HCSN health care fraud scheme. Six defendants have pleaded guilty, and three defendants are scheduled for trial on Jan. 14, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Altonaga in Miami. 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.
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.