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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Miami-area Clinic Owner, Patient Recruiter, Two Nurses and Medicare Beneficiary Plead Guilty in Home Health Care Fraud Scheme

WASHINGTON – Five South Florida residents pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Miami for participating in a home health care fraud scheme, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced.

Arturo Fonseca, Isis Torres, Francisco Portillo, Eduardo Romero and William Madrigal pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan to various health care fraud charges. The five individuals were originally charged in an indictment in December 2009.

Arturo Fonseca, 47, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and five counts of soliciting and receiving health care kickbacks. At the plea hearing, Fonseca admitted to being an owner and operator of Courtesy Medical Group Inc., a purported medical clinic in Miami. In pleading guilty, Fonseca admitted that Courtesy operated in part to provide prescriptions, plans of care and medical certifications, among other things, to Miami-area home health agencies. According to court documents, Courtesy provided these medical documents so that the home health agencies could bill the Medicare program for expensive home health services and therapy for beneficiaries that did not need and in some cases did not receive the purported treatments. According to the indictment, approximately 344 prescriptions were issued through Courtesy and signed by Fonseca’s co-defendant, Dr. Fred Dweck. As a result, the Medicare program was fraudulently billed approximately $16.6 million for home health services.

Eduardo Romero, 44, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and three counts of soliciting and receiving health care kickbacks. According to plea documents, Romero admitted to being a patient recruiter for ABC Home Health Care Inc. , and Florida Home Health Care Providers Inc., two Miami-area home health care agencies. Romero admitted that in his role as a patient recruiter, he would solicit and receive kickbacks and bribes from the owners of ABC and Florida Home Health in return for providing Medicare beneficiaries that the home health agencies could use to bill the Medicare program for unnecessary home health care services. Romero also admitted to paying kickbacks and bribes to the owners and operators of Courtesy in return for the prescriptions for unnecessary home health care services. Medicare was billed approximately $391,593 for purported home health care services that were not medically necessary or were not rendered for the patients recruited by Romero and one of his co-defendants. The owners and operators of ABC and Florida Home Health pleaded guilty in a separate case and are awaiting sentencing.

Francisco Portillo, 41, and Isis Torres, 37, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of making false statements in patient files. According to plea documents, Portillo and Torres were nurses and falsified patient files for ABC and Florida Home Health to make it appear that the patients qualified for home health care services, when in fact they did not qualify and in some instances never received any treatments. According to court documents, Portillo was responsible for approximately $142,000 in fraudulent Medicare billing and Torres was responsible for approximately $528,400 in fraudulent Medicare billing.

William Madrigal, 56, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of soliciting and receiving health care kickbacks. According to plea documents, Madrigal, a Medicare beneficiary, admitted that he solicited and received kickbacks and bribes in return for allowing ABC and Florida Home Health to bill Medicare for home health care services for which he did not qualify. Madrigal admitted that as a result of his role in the scheme, approximately $68,760 was fraudulently billed to Medicare for unnecessary home health care and therapy.

Today’s guilty pleas 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.

These cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys N. Nathan Dimock, Sam Sheldon and Henry Van Dyck, and former Trial Attorney Michael Padula and Special Trial Attorney Martha Talley of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. 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.

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