A former therapist for Biscayne Milieu, a Miami-based mental-health clinic, was sentenced today to serve 120 months in prison for his participation in a $55 million Medicare fraud scheme.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Steinbach of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Miami office made the announcement.
Jose Rojo, 39, of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke in the Southern District of Florida. Rojo was convicted on Aug. 7, 2013, of one count of conspiring to commit health care fraud following a one-month jury trial. In addition to the prison term, Rojo was ordered to pay more than $11 million in restitution, jointly and severally with his co-defendants, and to serve three years of supervised release.
According to the evidence at trial, Rojo and his co-conspirators caused the submission of more than $55 million dollars in fraudulent claims to Medicare through Biscayne Milieu, which purportedly operated a partial hospitalization program (PHP) – a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. Instead of providing PHP services, the defendants devised a scheme in which they paid patient recruiters to refer ineligible Medicare beneficiaries to Biscayne Milieu for services that were never provided. Many of the patients admitted to Biscayne Milieu were not eligible for PHP because they were chronic substance abusers, suffered from severe dementia and would not benefit from group therapy, or had no mental health diagnosis but were seeking exemptions for their U.S. citizenship applications.
The evidence at trial further showed that, as a therapist at Biscayne Milieu, Rojo conducted sham therapy sessions for patients he knew were ineligible for PHP treatment. Often Rojo showed up late for these sessions or not at all, but Medicare was still billed as if a full session took place. Rojo created fraudulent documents to help cover-up Biscayne Milieu’s massive fraud, including bogus treatment plans and phony group therapy notes that were copied from one document to the other. Deliberately inaccurate group therapy notes for different patients on different days – often years apart – were in many respects identical, including having the same descriptions of patients’ statements in group sessions and even the same misspelled words. Further, Rojo provided other therapists at the clinic with fake group therapy notes for a fee. Biscayne Milieu billed Medicare for tens of millions of dollars in PHP treatments for these patients.
Various owners, doctors, managers, therapists, patient brokers and other employees of Biscayne Milieu have also been charged with health care fraud, kickback violations, money laundering and other offenses in two indictments unsealed in September 2011 and May 2012. Biscayne Milieu, its owners, and more than 25 of the individual defendants charged in these cases have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial. Antonio and Jorge Macli and Sandra Huarte – the owners and operators of Biscayne Milieu – were each convicted at trial and were sentenced in April 2013 to 30 years, 25 years and 22 years in prison, respectively.
This case was investigated by the FBI with the assistance of HHS-OIG and was brought by the the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marlene Rodriguez and James V. Hayes of the Southern District of Florida; Hayes was formerly a trial attorney of the Fraud Section.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5 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.