The owner and operator of a Miami health care agency pleaded guilty today for his participation in a $42 million home health Medicare fraud scheme, announced the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Eulises Escalona, 43, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. In addition, as part of his plea agreement, Escalona agreed to forfeit to the government two residential properties and cash proceeds of the fraud contained in several bank accounts.
According to the court documents, Escalona was the owner of Willsand Home Health Inc., a Florida home health agency that purported to provide home health care and physical therapy services to eligible Medicare beneficiaries.
According to plea documents, Escalona conspired with patient recruiters for the purpose of billing the Medicare program for unnecessary home health care and therapy services. Escalona and his co-conspirators paid kickbacks and bribes to patient recruiters in return for these recruiters providing patients to Willsand Home Health, as well as prescriptions, Plans of Care (POCs) and certifications for medically unnecessary therapy and home health services for Medicare beneficiaries. Escalona and his co-conspirators would pay kickbacks and bribes directly to physicians in exchange for those physicians providing home health and therapy prescriptions, POCs and medical certifications to Escalona and his co-conspirators. Escalona used these prescriptions, POCs and medical certifications to fraudulently bill the Medicare program for home health care services, which Escalona knew was in violation of federal criminal laws.
According to plea documents, at Willsand Home Health, patient files for Medicare beneficiaries were falsified to make it appear that such beneficiaries qualified for home health care and therapy services when, in fact, many of the beneficiaries did not actually qualify for such services. Escalona knew that in many cases the patient files at Willsand Home Health were falsified.
From approximately January 2006 through November 2009, Escalona and his co-conspirators submitted approximately $42 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicare paid approximately $27 million on those claims.
The plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Jeffrey C. Mazanec, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge 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.
This case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Joseph S. Beemsterboer of the Criminal Division?s Fraud Section. The 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 1,330 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4 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.