Three patient recruiters for a Miami health care company pleaded guilty today for their participation in a $48 million home health 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) Office of Investigations Miami Office made the announcement.
Miami residents Marianela Martinez, 45; Omar Hernandez, 48; and Celia Santovenia, 49, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham in the Southern District of Florida to one count each of conspiracy to receive health care kickbacks. Sentencing has been scheduled for Feb. 11, 2014.
According to court documents, Martinez, Hernandez and Santovenia were patient recruiters who worked for Caring Nurse Home Health Care Corp., and Santovenia also worked for Good Quality Home Health Care Inc. Caring Nurse and Good Quality were Miami home health care agencies that purported to provide home health and therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries.
From approximately January 2006 through June 2011, the defendants would recruit patients for Caring Nurse and/or Good Quality and would solicit and receive kickbacks and bribes from the owners and operators of Caring Nurse and/or Good Quality in return for allowing the agency to bill the Medicare program on behalf of the recruited patients. These Medicare beneficiaries were billed for home health care and therapy services that were medically unnecessary and/or not provided.
In a related case, on Feb. 27, 2013, Rogelio Rodriguez, 44, and Raymond Aday, 49, the owners and operators of Caring Nurse and Good Quality, were sentenced to serve 108 and 51 months in prison, respectively. The sentencings followed their December 2012 guilty pleas to one count each of conspiracy to commit health care fraud charged in an October 2012 indictment, which alleged that from approximately January 2006 through June 2011, Caring Nurse and Good Quality submitted approximately $48 million in claims for home health services that were not medically necessary and/or not provided. Medicare paid approximately $33 million for those fraudulent claims.
The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Joseph S. Beemsterboer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,700 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 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 .