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MIAMI-AREA RESIDENT PLEADS GUILTY TO PARTICIPATING IN $200 MILLION MEDICARE FRAUD SCHEME

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 18, 2012

A Miami-area resident pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Miami for her role in a Medicare fraud scheme that resulted in the submission of more than $200 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare, announced the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Sandra Jimenez, 38, admitted to participating in a fraud scheme that was orchestrated by the owners and operators of American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC); its management company, Medlink Professional Management Group Inc.; and the American Sleep Institute (ASI). ATC, Medlink and ASI were all Florida corporations headquartered in Miami. ATC operated purported partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) – a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness – in seven different locations throughout South Florida and Orlando. ASI purported to provide diagnostic sleep disorder testing.

Jimenez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay and receive illegal health care kickbacks. Jimenez was charged in an indictment unsealed on Feb. 15, 2011, in the Southern District of Florida.

According to court filings, ATC’s owners and operators paid kickbacks to owners and operators of assisted living facilities (ALFs) and halfway houses and to patient brokers in exchange for delivering ineligible patients to ATC and ASI. In some cases, the patients received a portion of those kickbacks. Throughout the course of the ATC and ASI conspiracy, millions of dollars in kickbacks were paid in exchange for Medicare beneficiaries, who did not qualify for PHP services, to attend treatment programs that were not legitimate PHPs. ATC and ASI then billed Medicare for the medically unnecessary services. According to court filings, to obtain the cash required to support the kickbacks, the co-conspirators laundered millions of dollars of payments from Medicare.

In pleading guilty, Jimenez admitted that she served as a marketer for ATC and ASI. In this role, Jimenez solicited beneficiaries and paid kickbacks to assisted living facility owners in exchange for the beneficiaries. The amount of the kickback was based on the number of days each patient spent at ATC.

Jimenez also admitted that she participated in a separate Medicare fraud scheme through Priority Home Health, a Miami home health agency that submitted fraudulent claims to Medicare for home health services. Jimenez and her co-conspirators recruited Medicare beneficiaries to Priority Home Health who did not qualify for home health services.

According to the plea agreement, Jimenez’s participation in the ATC fraud and the Priority Home Health fraud resulted in $46 million in fraudulent billings to the Medicare program.

Sentencing for Jimenez is scheduled for June 27, 2012, at 8:30 a.m. Jimenez faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

ATC, Medlink, and various owners, managers, doctors, therapists, patient brokers and marketers of ATC, Medlink and ASI, were charged with various health care fraud, kickback, money laundering and other offenses in two indictments unsealed on Feb. 15, 2011. ATC, Medlink and nine of the individual defendants have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial. Other defendants are scheduled for trial on April 9, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz. A defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Yesterday’s guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s 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 (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami office.

The criminal case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Jennifer L. Saulino and Steven Kim of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. A related civil action is being handled by Vanessa I. Reed and Carolyn B. Tapie of the Civil Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ted L. Radway of the Southern District of Florida. 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 its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,160 defendants that collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $2.9 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.

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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.

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