A patient recruiter and a therapy staffing company owner pleaded guilty today in connection with a $7 million health care fraud scheme involving the now defunct home health care company Anna Nursing Services Corp.
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) Office of Investigations’ Miami office made the announcement.
Ivan Alejo, 48, and Hugo Morales, 36, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. At sentencing, scheduled for Nov. 5, 2013, Alejo and Morales each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Alejo worked as a patient recruiter at Anna Nursing, a home health care agency in Miami Springs, Fla., that purported to provide home health and therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries but in reality billed Medicare for expensive physical therapy and home health care services that were not medically necessary and/or were not provided. Morales owned Professionals Therapy Staffing Services Inc., which provided therapists to Anna Nursing.
Alejo and his co-conspirators negotiated and paid kickbacks and bribes to patient recruiters in return for the recruiters providing patients to Anna Nursing for home health and therapy services that were medically unnecessary and/or not provided. He and others also paid kickbacks and bribes to co-conspirators in doctors’ offices and clinics in exchange for home health and therapy prescriptions, medical certifications, and other documentation. Alejo and his co-conspirators would use the prescriptions, medical certifications and other documentation to fraudulently bill the Medicare program for home health care services.
Morales and others created fictitious progress notes and other patient files indicating that therapists from Professionals Therapy had provided physical or occupational therapy services to particular Medicare beneficiaries, when in many instances those services had not been provided and/or were not medically necessary. Morales knew the falsified documents were used to support false claims for home health care services billed to Medicare by his co-conspirators at Anna Nursing.
From approximately October 2010 through approximately April 2013, Anna Nursing was paid by Medicare approximately $7 million for fraudulent claims for home health care services that were not medically necessary and/or not provided.
This case is being 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. This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney A. Brendan Stewart of the Criminal Division’s 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 & 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.