WASHINGTON – The owner and an employee of a Miami health care agency pleaded guilty for their participation in a $22 million home health Medicare fraud scheme, the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today.
Marietha Morales, 38, pleaded guilty on Jan. 24, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Seitz to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and Eduardo Saborit-Dominguez, 48, pleaded guilty today before Judge Seitz to one count of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for May 23, 2012. The charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
According to the court documents, Morales was the president and Saborit-Dominguez was an employee of Prime Home Health Services 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, Morales conspired with patient recruiters for the purpose of billing the Medicare program for unnecessary home health care and therapy services. Morales and her co-conspirators paid kickbacks and bribes to patient recruiters in return for these recruiters providing patients to Prime Home Health, as well as prescriptions, plans of care and certifications for medically unnecessary therapy and home health services for Medicare beneficiaries. Saborit-Dominguez distributed the kickbacks and bribes to co-conspirator patient recruiters and knew that the payment of kickbacks and bribes was in violation of federal criminal laws. Morales used these prescriptions, plans of care and medical certifications to fraudulently bill the Medicare program for home health care services, which Morales knew was in violation of federal criminal laws.
According to plea documents, at Prime Home Health, nurses and office staff falsified patient files for Medicare beneficiaries to make it appear that such beneficiaries qualified for home health care and therapy services from Prime Home Health. Morales admitted that she knew the beneficiaries did not actually qualify for and did not receive such services. Morales knew that these files were falsified so that the Medicare program could be billed for medically unnecessary therapy and home health related services.
From approximately February 2005 through April 2011, Morales and her co-conspirators submitted approximately $22 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicare paid approximately $14 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; 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.
This case is being prosecuted by 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 Miami.
Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,140 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.9 billion. In addition, the HHS 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.