WASHINGTON – The owner of a Broward County, Fla.-area halfway house pleaded guilty yesterday for his role in a kickback scheme that funneled patients to a fraudulent mental health provider, announced, the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services.
Giuseppe Pellerito, 59, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke in Miami to one count of conspiracy to receive health care kickbacks and two counts of receiving kickbacks. Pellerito is the owner of Florida Sober House, a Florida corporation with multiple halfway houses in Broward and Palm Beach County, Fla.
According to court documents, Pellerito agreed to send Medicare beneficiaries who resided at Florida Sober House to American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC), a fraudulent mental health provider, for partial hospitalization program (PHP) treatment, a form of mental health treatment for severe mental illness, in exchange for illegal health care kickbacks. ATC purported to operate PHPs in seven different locations throughout south Florida and Orlando. According to court documents, Pellerito admitted he knew ATC fraudulently billed Medicare for the PHP treatment that his referrals purportedly received at ATC. He also admitted he referred his halfway house residents to ATC because they had Medicare and were willing to go to ATC, and because he would receive a cash kickback.
ATC, its management company Medlink Professional Management Group Inc., a related company called American Sleep Institute (ASI), and various owners, managers, doctors, therapists, patient brokers and marketers of ATC and Medlink and ASI, were charged with various health care fraud, kickback, money laundering and other offenses in two indictments unsealed on Feb. 15, 2011. ATC, Medlink and 14 of the individual defendants have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial. On June 1, 2012, five other defendants, including two Miami-based doctors, were convicted after a seven-week trial before U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz, for their involvement in the ATC scheme.
The guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; John V. Gillies, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent-in-Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami Office.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney William Parente 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 Florida.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,330 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is 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.