Miami resident Hans Lobato pleaded guilty today to engaging in a fraudulent medical testing scheme, announced the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS).
Lobato, 25, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge Alan S. Gold in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. As a result of his participation in the scheme, Lobato submitted or caused to be submitted $7.425 million in false or fraudulent claims to the Medicare program. Medicare paid approximately $5.336 million of those claims.
At sentencing, scheduled for July 23, 2010, Lobato faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Lobato was originally charged by indictment in the Eastern District of Michigan, but consented to have his case transferred to the Southern District of Florida for his plea and sentencing.
According to the plea documents, Lobato and several co-conspirators opened a Detroit-area clinic called Ritecare LLC in August 2007. Lobato admitted that, at the direction of co-conspirators, he paid patient recruiters who brought beneficiaries to Ritecare. Lobato admitted knowing that the patient recruiters would use a portion of that money to pay the patients kickbacks for agreeing to be seen at Ritecare and subjecting themselves to medically unnecessary tests. Lobato admitted that he also paid kickbacks directly to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for the beneficiaries subjecting themselves to medically unnecessary tests.
Lobato admitted that he instructed patient recruiters and Medicare beneficiaries to claim they had symptoms justifying medically unnecessary tests, including costly nerve conduction studies, on numerous occasions. Consequently, the patients’ medical records contained false symptoms allowing Ritecare to deceive Medicare as to the legitimacy and medical necessity of the tests.
Today’s guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara L. McQuade; Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the HHS Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Chicago Regional Office.
The case was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney John K. Neal and Trial Attorney Gejaa T. Gobena 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 Eastern District of Michigan.
Since the inception of Strike Force operations in March 2007, Strike Force operations in seven districts have obtained indictments of more than 500 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for approximately $1.1 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