Medical Clinic Owner and Other Patient Recruiters Plead Guilty in Miami for Roles in $8 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
Several patient recruiters, including a medical clinic owner, pleaded guilty today in connection with a health care fraud scheme involving Flores Home Health Care Inc., a defunct home health care company.
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.
At a hearing held before U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro of the Southern District of Florida, Lerida Labrada, 59, of Miami, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and Mayra Flores, 49, and German Martinez, 36, both of Miami, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and receive health care kickbacks, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Sentencing has been scheduled for March 14, 2014.
According to court documents, the defendants worked as patient recruiters for the owners and operators of Flores Home Health, a Miami home health care agency that purported to provide home health and physical therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries. Labrada also owned and operated a Miami medical clinic that provided fraudulent prescriptions to patient recruiters and to the owners and operators of Flores Home Health.
Flores Home Health was operated for the purpose of billing the Medicare program for, among other things, expensive physical therapy and home health care services that were not medically necessary and/or were not provided.
The defendants would recruit patients for Flores Home Health and would solicit and receive kickbacks and bribes from the owners and operators of Flores Home Health in return for allowing the agency to bill the Medicare program on behalf of the recruited Medicare patients. These Medicare beneficiaries were billed for home health care and therapy services that were not medically necessary and/or not provided.
From approximately October 2009 through approximately June 2012, Flores Home Health was paid approximately $8 million by Medicare for fraudulent claims for home health services.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the 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 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 1,700 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with 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