Miami-Area Assisted Living Facility Owner Pleads Guilty to Fraud and Kickback Scheme
WASHINGTON – The owner of a Miami-area assisted living facility pleaded guilty yesterday for her role in a kickback scheme that funneled patients to a fraudulent mental health provider, American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC), announced the Department of Justice, FBI and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Billy Denica, 50, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard in Miami to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Denica was the owner of an assisted living facility called Robyll Care Assisted Living Facility.
According to court documents, Denica agreed to send Medicare beneficiaries who resided at Robyll to ATC for mental health treatment called partial hospitalization program (PHP) services in exchange for illegal health care kickbacks. ATC purported to operate PHPs in seven different locations throughout south Florida and Orlando. According to court documents, Denica admitted that she knew ATC fraudulently billed Medicare for the PHP treatment that her referrals purportedly received at ATC. Denica was aware that some of the Robyll residents would be offered gifts such as money, cigarettes and candy, so that they would agree to be admitted to a hospital for purposes of later attending ATC. She also admitted that she referred her residents to ATC simply because they had Medicare, because she would receive a cash kickback and because they were willing to go.
According to the plea agreement, Denica’s participation in the fraud resulted in more than $1.1 million in fraudulent billing to the Medicare program. At sentencing, scheduled for June 11, 2012, Denica faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
ATC, its management company Medlink Professional Management Group Inc., a related company called American Sleep Institute (ASI), and various owners, managers, doctors, therapists, patient brokers and marketers of ATC and 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 14 of the individual defendants have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial. Seven other defendants are scheduled for trial April 9, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz, and one defendant’s trial has been deferred until after June 2012. A defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The guilty plea was announced today by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; John V. Gillies, Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent-in-Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami Office.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Steven Kim and Jennifer L. Saulino of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. 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 1,190 defendants that collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $3.6 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.