MEDICARE FRAUD FUGITIVE TAKEN INTO CUSTODY AT MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AND ORDERED HELD IN PRE-TRIAL DETENTION PENDING TRIAL
Jose Garcia, 55, who has been a fugitive since 2008, was taken into federal custody yesterday at Miami International Airport, announced the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS). Garcia self-surrendered to FBI agents upon arrival in Miami.
Garcia appeared in federal court in Miami today, where U.S. Magistrate Judge William C. Turnoff ordered him detained pending the resolution of the charges against him. Garcia and his co-defendant, Nayda Freire, were charged in 2008 with allegedly conspiring between April 2003 and November 2003 to submit approximately $10.9 million in false and fraudulent claims to the Medicare program for HIV infusion services allegedly provided at Global Med-Care Corp., an HIV infusion clinic operated by Garcia and Freire.
According to the indictment, Garcia, Freire and their co-conspirators allegedly retained and trained physicians and physicians’ assistants as part of the scheme at Global Med-Care to make it appear that legitimate HIV infusion and medical services were being provided. The indictment also alleges that Garcia and Freire laundered the proceeds of their crimes by sending the proceeds to sham management and marketing companies owned and controlled by their co-conspirators. The charges in the indictment are merely allegations and Garcia is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Garcia and Freire were charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, to cause the submission of false claims to the Medicare program and to pay health care kickbacks; one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud; one count of conspiracy to launder the proceeds of their crimes; and four counts of money laundering. Garcia also was charged with four counts of submitting false claims to the Medicare program.
Freire pleaded guilty on Aug. 28, 2008, to one count of conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program, and was sentenced on Nov. 12, 2008, by U.S. District Court Judge Adalberto Jordan to 30 months in prison. In addition to the prison term, Judge Jordan sentenced Freire to two years of supervised release following her release from prison and ordered her to pay $7,992,391 in restitution to the Medicare program. In her plea, Freire acknowledged that between April 2003 and November 2003, she and others conspired to file $10.9 million in false claims to the Medicare program for HIV infusion services that were not provided and were not medically necessary. In addition, court documents explain how the patients were paid cash kickbacks in return for agreeing to allow Global Med-Care to bill Medicare for the unneeded services.
Freire admitted that after payments from Medicare were made into the bank accounts of Global Med-Care, she and others transferred approximately $6 million of the fraud proceeds to sham management, marketing and investment companies owned and operated by co-conspirators Carlos, Luis and Jose Benitez. Co-conspirators Carlos and Luis Benitez and Thomas McKenzie were charged separately with health care fraud and money laundering crimes in an indictment unsealed on June 11, 2008. According to the separate indictment, these co-conspirators allegedly provided the money and staff necessary to open Global Med-Care; the Medicare patients whom the clinic would bill to the Medicare program; and transportation for the HIV patients who visited the clinic. That indictment also alleges that Carlos and Luis Benitez were the true owners of Global Med-Care.
The three Benitez brothers and McKenzie were charged with participating in the commission of approximately $109 million in HIV infusion fraud and money laundering through Global Med-Care and 10 other HIV infusion clinics. On Sept. 18, 2008, McKenzie pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of submitting false claims to the Medicare program, and also admitted his role in a $119 million HIV infusion fraud scheme. McKenzie was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold on Dec. 18, 2008, to 14 years in prison in connection with his role in the HIV-infusion Medicare fraud scheme. In addition to the prison sentence, McKenzie was ordered to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term and pay $84 million in restitution to the Medicare program. The Benitez brothers remain fugitives.
Today’s results were announced by U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; 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 (OIG), Office of Investigations Miami office.
The case was prosecuted by Deputy Chief Hank Bond Walther and Trial Attorney N. Nathan Dimock of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, and investigated by the FBI and the HHS Office of Inspector General. The case 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, Strike Force operations in seven districts have obtained indictments of more than 560 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $1.2 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.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.