WASHINGTON – Two patient recruiters, a nurse and an administrator for two Miami home health care companies were sentenced today for their participation in a $25 million home health Medicare fraud scheme, announced the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The defendants were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard in the Southern District of Florida.
Licet Diaz, 49, was sentenced to 87 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $7.8 million in restitution.
Fidel Castro, 49, was sentenced to 30 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $550,000 in restitution.
Ignacio Angulo, 48, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $190,000 in restitution.
Barbara Gonzalez, 38, was sentenced to six months in prison, two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $40,000 in restitution.
Castro, Gonzalez, Angulo and Diaz each pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. They were each ordered to pay their restitution jointly and severally with co-defendants.
According to court documents, Castro and Gonzalez were patient recruiters for ABC Home Health Care Inc., a Miami home health care agency that purported to provide home health and physical therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries. Angulo was a nurse and patient recruiter for Florida Home Health Care Providers Inc., another related Miami home health care agency. Diaz was an administrator for ABC and Florida Home Health. According to court documents, ABC and Florida Home Health only existed to defraud Medicare.
Castro, Gonzalez and Angulo admitted that beginning in approximately January 2006 and continuing until approximately March 2009, they recruited Medicare beneficiaries who would allow ABC and Florida Home Health to bill Medicare for home health care and therapy services that were medically unnecessary and/or never provided. Castro, Gonzalez, and Angulo solicited and received kickbacks and bribes from the owners and operators of ABC and Florida Home Health in return for recruiting patients. Castro, Gonzalez and Angulo knew that the patients they recruited did not qualify for the services billed to Medicare and that the files for the recruited patients were falsified to make it appear that the patients qualified for the services.
According to court documents, Angulo, a licensed practical nurse, along with his co-defendant nurses, falsified patient files for Medicare beneficiaries to make it appear that the beneficiaries qualified for home health care and therapy services. Angulo admitted that he knew the beneficiaries did not qualify for and did not receive the services. The files were falsified so that Medicare could be billed for medically unnecessary therapy and home health related services.
According to plea documents, Diaz distributed kickback payments to the patient recruiters on behalf of the owners of ABC and Florida Home Health. Diaz worked in the offices of ABC and Florida Home Health and was aware that office staff manipulated the patient files and nursing notes for patients at ABC and Florida Home Health.
As a result of the participation of Castro, Gonzalez, Angulo and Diaz in the illegal scheme, the Medicare program was billed approximately $550,000, $40,000, $190,000 and $7.8 million, respectively, for purported home health care services that were not medically necessary and/or were not provided.
The sentences 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.
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 Florida.
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.