Miami-Area Nurse Pleads Guilty in $25 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
WASHINGTON – A Miami-area nurse pleaded guilty today for his participation in a $25 million home health Medicare fraud scheme, the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today.
Jorge Pineiro, 42, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard in Miami to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Pineiro was originally charged in a February 2011 indictment.
According to plea documents, Pineiro was a registered nurse who worked for ABC Home Health Care Inc. and Florida Home Health Care Providers Inc., two Miami home health care agencies that purported to provide home health and therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries. Pineiro and his co-conspirators operated ABC and Florida Home Health for the purpose of billing Medicare for expensive services that were not medically necessary and/or were never provided. The medically unnecessary services were prescribed by doctors, including, but not limited to, Pineiro’s co-defendant, Dr. Jose Nunez.
According to court documents, beginning in approximately June 2008, and continuing until approximately March 2009, Pineiro and his co-defendant nurses falsified patient files for Medicare beneficiaries to make it appear that they qualified for home health care and therapy services. Pineiro knew that the beneficiaries did not actually qualify for and did not receive the services. Pineiro and his co-defendant nurses described in nursing notes and patient files symptoms that were non-existent, such as tremors, impaired vision, weak grip and inability to walk without assistance. They included these symptoms to make it appear that the patients were unable to self-inject insulin and were homebound, thus appearing to qualify for home health care benefits under Medicare.
Pineiro admitted that he knew these files were falsified so that Medicare could be billed for medically unnecessary therapy and home health-related services. As a result of Pineiro’s participation in the illegal scheme, the Medicare program was billed approximately $118,000 for purported home health care services that were not medically necessary and/or were never provided.
Pineiro also recruited Medicare beneficiaries who allowed Florida Home Health to bill Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary and/or never provided. Pineiro solicited and received kickbacks and bribes from the owners and operators of Florida Home Health in return for allowing the agency to bill Medicare on behalf of the patients he recruited. The patients that Pineiro recruited did not qualify for the services that were billed to the Medicare program. Pineiro knew that the patient files for his recruited patients were falsified to make it appear that the patients qualified for services from Florida Home Health.
Eighteen co-defendants, including Nunez, Licet Diaz and Lisandra Alonso have pleaded guilty for their roles in the fraud scheme. Nunez, Diaz and Alonso were sentenced to 40 months, 87 months and 78 months in prison, respectively. Two remaining defendants, Dr. Francisco Gonzalez and Odalys Alvarez-Medina, are scheduled for trial on Feb. 14, 2012. An indictment is merely a charge, and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Sentencing for Pineiro has been scheduled for April 9, 2012.
The charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. The defendant also faces fines and supervised release, as well as forfeiture of any property or proceeds derived from his criminal activities.
Today’s guilty plea was announced 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 Dennis of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami office.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Joseph S. Beemsterboer 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 Miami.
Since their inception in March 2007, strike force operations in nine locations have obtained indictments of more than 1,160 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.9 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.