WASHINGTON – Miami-area husband and wife Modesto and Victoria de la Vega pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Miami for their participation in a $13.7 million HIV infusion Medicare fraud scheme, announced the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS). Also today, two Miami-area residents were sentenced to prison for their participation in a separate HIV infusion Medicare fraud scheme.
Modesto de la Vega, 59, and his wife, Victoria de la Vega, 59, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Adalberto Jordan to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, to cause submission of false claims to Medicare, and to pay health care kickbacks; one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud; and three counts of submitting false claims, as charged in a March 2010 indictment. At sentencing, scheduled for Nov. 5, 2010, Modesto and Victoria de la Vega each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the conspiracy to defraud the United States count and each false claims count, and 10 years in prison for the health care fraud conspiracy count.
According to plea documents, Modesto de la Vega was an owner and operator of T&R Rehabilitation Professional Corp., a Miami clinic that purported to provide expensive injection and infusion treatments to patients with HIV. Victoria de la Vega was an office assistant at T&R. Modesto de la Vega admitted at his plea hearing that he agreed with his co-defendants and others to enlist patient recruiters and patients, among others, into a scheme to defraud Medicare. Modesto and Victoria de la Vega admitted that they knew the patients at T&R did not need and/or did not receive the purported services, and that it would be necessary to pay kickbacks and bribes to the patients so that T&R could bill the Medicare program for the HIV infusion services that were not medically necessary and/or were not provided.
The defendants admitted that from approximately January 2003, through approximately July 2005, they and their co-defendants caused T&R to submit fraudulent claims to the Medicare program in the amount of approximately $13.7 million. Medicare paid approximately $4.1 million of these fraudulent claims.
In a separate and unrelated case, two Miami-area residents were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Ursulla Ungaro in the Southern District of Florida for their participation in a similar HIV infusion Medicare fraud scheme. Keith Earnest Humes, a patient recruiter for a fraudulent HIV/AIDS infusion clinic known as Tendercare Medical Center Inc., was sentenced to 84 months in prison and three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution jointly and severally with co-defendants in the amount of $539,485. Lawrence Edward Humes, also a patient recruiter for Tendercare, was sentenced to 33 months in prison and three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution jointly and severally with co-defendants in the amount of $222,967. In addition, based on the court’s consideration of relevant conduct, Keith Humes was ordered to pay further restitution in the amount of $346,889.
According to court documents, Keith Humes and Lawrence Humes admitted that they conspired with each other and other individuals to defraud Medicare by submitting false claims for injection and infusion treatments that were medically unnecessary and that in most instances were not provided. Keith Humes and Lawrence Humes paid kickbacks to beneficiaries in return for their Medicare numbers and signatures, which Tendercare used to submit the false claims. Between January 2005 and December 2007, Tendercare submitted approximately $5.8 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for treatments that were medically unnecessary or never provided. Medicare paid Tendercare approximately $2.7 million.
Today’s guilty pleas and sentences were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; John V. Gillies , 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.
The cases were prosecuted by attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, including Trial Attorneys N. Nathan Dimock, Joseph Beemsterboer, Charles D. Reed, former Trial Attorney Michael Padula, former Fraud Section Assistant Chief John S. (Jay) Darden and former Fraud Section Special Trial Attorney Martha Talley, on detail from HHS-OIG. The cases were investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and were 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 operations in seven districts have obtained indictments of more than 810 individuals and organizations that collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $1.85 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.