News and Press Releases

Former Registered Nurse Sentenced in Miami to 111 Months in Prison in Connection with $63 Million Mental Health Care Fraud Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 11, 2013

A former registered nurse was sentenced today to serve 111 months in prison for his role in a health care fraud scheme involving defunct health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN), announced 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; Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge 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.

John Thoen, 53, of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida. In addition to his prison term, Thoen was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release.

On Nov. 20, 2012, Thoen pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to court documents, HCSN operated community mental health centers (CMHC) at three locations in Miami-Dade County, Fla., and one location in Hendersonville, N.C. HCSN purported to provide partial hospitalization program (PHP) services to individuals suffering from mental illness. A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. According to court documents, HCSN obtained Medicare beneficiaries to attend HCSN for purported PHP treatment that was unnecessary and, in many instances, not even provided. HCSN obtained those beneficiaries in Miami by paying kickbacks to owners and operators of assisted living facilities.

According to court documents, Thoen was a licensed registered nurse in both Florida and North Carolina. In Florida, Thoen participated in the admission to HCSN of patients who were ineligible for PHP services. Thoen participated in the routine fabrication of patient medical records that were utilized to support false and fraudulent billing to government sponsored health care benefit programs, including Medicare and Medicaid.

In North Carolina, Thoen, according to court documents, routinely submitted fraudulent PHP claims for Medicare patients who were not even present at the CMHC on days PHP services were purportedly rendered. Thoen also caused the submission of fraudulent Medicare claims on days the CMHC was closed due to snow.

Thoen also admitted to his role in a money laundering scheme, involving Psychiatric Consulting Network Inc. (PCN), a Florida corporation that was utilized by HCSN as a shell corporation to launder health care fraud proceeds. According to court documents, Thoen was president of PCN.

According to court documents, from 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Florida Medicaid program approximately $63 million for purported mental health services.

Fifteen defendants have been charged for their alleged roles in the HCSN health care fraud scheme, and nine defendants have pleaded guilty. Alleged co-conspirators Wondera Eason and Paul Layman are scheduled for trial on March 11, 2013, before Judge Altonaga in Miami. And alleged co-conspirators Alina Feas, Dana Gonzalez, Gema Pampin and Lisset Palmero are scheduled for trial on June 3, 2013. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial.

The cases are being prosecuted by Special Trial Attorney William Parente and Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. This 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. In support of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, the FBI Criminal Investigative Division’s Financial Crimes Section has funded the Special Trial Attorney position.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and 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.

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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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