WASHINGTON – The owner and operator of a Florida health care company has been sentenced to 66 months incarceration for Medicare fraud, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta of the Southern District of Florida announced today.
Marianela Smith was sentenced on Friday, Nov. 9, 2007, by U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard at the federal court in Miami. Judge Lenard also ordered Smith to pay approximately $363,000 in restitution for submitting approximately $800,000 worth of fraudulent claims to the Medicare program.
Smith owned and operated Smith Medical Equipment, a Miami medical equipment company, from approximately 2000-2003. She was convicted on five charges following a seven-day trial in August 2007. At trial, the government established that Smith had been paying kickbacks to Medicare beneficiaries throughout Miami-Dade County to gain access to their Medicare information. After gaining access to their Medicare cards, Smith billed Medicare for unnecessary services on behalf of these patients, including oxygen concentrators and nebulizers. One of these patients testified that Smith paid him in cash and that he did not need the treatments or medication that Smith was billing to Medicare. Further, he testified that he threw away the medication that was paid for by Medicare. According to trial testimony, Smith paid $150 per month if the patients agreed to accept unneeded aerosol medications, such as Albuterol, and related respiratory equipment such as oxygen concentrators.
Smith obtained the compounded aerosol medications from previously convicted pharmacy owners in Miami. From 2000 to 2003, these pharmacies billed the Medicare program for over $17 million.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant Chief John Kelly and Trial Attorney Hank Bond Walther from the Fraud Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., with the investigative assistance of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General; the FBI; and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit from the State of Florida. This case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force initiative created in March 2007, led by the Fraud Section in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida. The Strike Force operates out of the federal Health Care Fraud Facility in Miramar, Fla., and has brought over 74 cases involving 120 defendants since March 1, 2007.