Criminal Justice News

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Fifty-Nine South Florida Residents Charged as Part of Nationwide Coordinated Takedown by Medicare Fraud Strike Force Operations

107 Individuals Charged Nationally for Submitting Approximately $452 Million in Fraudulent Billing; South Florida Responsible for more than $137 Million in False Billings

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; Christopher B. Dennis, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG); and Henry Gutierrez, Postal Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Miami Division, announced that 59 South Florida residents were charged for their alleged participation in various schemes to defraud Medicare out of more than $137 million. The charges in South Florida are part of a nationwide takedown by Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in seven cities that resulted in charges against 107 individuals, including doctors, nurses and other licensed professionals, for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $452 million in false billing. This coordinated takedown involved the highest amount of false Medicare billings in a single takedown in strike force history.

The joint Department of Justice and HHS Medicare Fraud Strike Force is a multi-agency team of federal, state, and local investigators designed to combat Medicare fraud. Approximately 400 law enforcement agents from the FBI, HHS-OIG, multiple Medicaid Fraud Control Units, and other state and local law enforcement agencies participated in the national takedown.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “The Medicare program is a valuable and limited trust fund to provide much needed services for the poor, the elderly and the sick. Among the dozens of fraudsters charged in South Florida in this operation are clinic owners, nurses, therapists, patient recruiters, pharmacy owners, accountants, former social workers, and even beneficiaries, all of whom stole precious health care dollars through a variety of schemes. These get rich quick schemes at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society are unacceptable. We will continue to fight health care fraud on all fronts: we will prosecute each link in the fraud chain and each evolving fraud scheme.”

“The results we are announcing today are at the heart of an administration-wide commitment to protecting American taxpayers from health care fraud, which can drive up costs and threaten the strength and integrity of our health care system,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “We are determined to bring to justice those who violate our laws and defraud the Medicare program for personal gain. As today’s takedown reflects, our ongoing fight against health care fraud has never been more coordinated and effective.”

“More than half of those charged in a record setting health care fraud takedown today were from the Miami area. The local fraud totaled more than $137 million. Sadly, in Miami, multi-million-dollar health care fraud cases are no longer shocking in their magnitude or frequency,” said John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Office. “Here’s my message clear and simple: you can run, but as evidenced by today’s nationwide takedown, you can’t hide.”

“Medicare fraud diverts precious resources from those who are eligible and need it most,” said Christopher B. Dennis, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General’s region covering Florida. “Today’s action should send a strong message that we will continue to track the evidence to ensure that those involved are held accountable.”

U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Henry Gutierrez stated, “Medicare fraud is an assault on resources for our most needy and vulnerable citizens. This joint effort by the South Florida law enforcement community demonstrates that those who engage in these illegal schemes will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

The South Florida defendants are accused of various health care fraud-related crimes, including conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes and money laundering. The charges are based on a variety of alleged fraud schemes involving various medical treatments and services such as home health care, mental health services, and physical and occupational therapy. According to court documents, the defendants allegedly participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare for treatments that were medically unnecessary and oftentimes never provided. In many cases, court documents allege that patient recruiters, Medicare beneficiaries and other co-conspirators were paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers, so that the providers could submit fraudulent billing to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary or never provided.

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