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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 23, 2009
Two Doctors and Two Medical Assistants Plead Guilty in $10 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

WASHINGTON – Four Miami-area residents pleaded guilty today in connection with a $10 million Medicare fraud scheme involving HIV infusion clinics, Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta of the Southern District of Florida announced today.

Dr. Roberto Rodriguez, 54; Dr. Carlos Garrido, 69; Gonzalo Nodarse, 38; and Alexis Carrazana, 41; all pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. All four defendants admitted to working at Midway Medical Center Inc. (Midway), a Miami clinic that purported to specialize in the treatment of HIV patients.

According to the plea documents, Rodriguez was a co-owner of and practicing physician at Midway. Rodriguez admitted that he and his co-conspirators routinely billed the Medicare program for services that were medically unnecessary and, in many instances, never provided. Rodriguez admitted to purchasing only a small fraction of the medication that was purportedly being administered to Midway’s patients.

Most of the services provided to patients at Midway were billed to the Medicare program as treatments for a diagnosis of thrombocytopenia, a disorder involving a low count of platelets in the blood. According to the plea documents, none of Midway’s patients actually had low blood platelet counts. Rodriguez admitted that to make it appear that the patients actually had low platelet levels, he and his co-conspirators used chemists to manipulate the blood samples drawn from Midway’s patients before the blood was sent to a laboratory for analysis. In his plea, Rodriguez admitted to ordering that patients at Midway receive medications to treat thrombocytopenia despite knowing that the laboratory results had been falsified and the patients did not actually have that condition.

Midway was not the only clinic where Rodriguez purported to treat HIV patients with injection and infusion therapies. In his plea, Rodriguez admitted that he was listed as a medical director and practicing physician for five other Miami-area HIV infusion clinics between approximately October 2003 and February 2005, where he engaged in similar misconduct. Specifically, Rodriguez admitted he and his co-conspirators billed the Medicare program for HIV injection and infusion services that Rodriguez knew were medically unnecessary and, in some instances, never actually provided. Rodriguez admitted to causing more than $20 million in false claims to be submitted to the Medicare program at all of his clinics, including Midway.

Like Rodriguez, Garrido was a part-owner and practicing physician at Midway. In his plea, Garrido admitted that he and his co-conspirators routinely billed the Medicare program for services that were medically unnecessary and, in many instances, never provided. Garrido admitted to purchasing only a small fraction of the medication that was purportedly being administered to Midway’s patients. Garrido ordered that patients be treated with medications he knew they did not need and that, in many instances, he knew the clinic did not have available to provide to the patients. Garrido admitted to working at Midway for approximately eight months before the clinic closed, during which time he admitted to submitting more than $1 million in fraudulent claims to the Medicare program.

Nodarse and Carrazana worked at Midway as medical assistants. In their pleas, the two assistants admitted to making false entries in medical records indicating that they had provided medications on particular dates and in particular dosages to patients, when, in fact, they had not provided medications. The medical assistants also admitted to being fully aware that blood samples drawn from Midway’s patients were tainted to make it appear that the patients had conditions they did not have. Both assistants admitted to administering medications to patients that they knew the patients did not need. Nodarse, who worked at Midway throughout its existence, admitted to conspiring to submit more than $10 million in false and fraudulent claims for HIV infusion services allegedly provided at the clinic.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney John K. Neal of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, conducted the investigation. The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force (MFSF), supervised by Deputy Chief Kirk Ogrosky of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and U.S. Attorney Acosta of the Southern District of Florida. Since the inception of MFSF operations, federal prosecutors have indicted 106 cases with 192 defendants in both Los Angeles and Miami. Collectively, these defendants fraudulently billed the Medicare program for more than half a billion dollars.

09-261
Criminal Division
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