Miami-Area Patient Recruiter Pleads Guilty to Fraud and Kickback Scheme
WASHINGTON – The owner and president of a Miami-area transportation company pleaded guilty today for her role in a Medicare fraud kickback scheme that funneled patients through a fraudulent mental health company, American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC), announced the Department of Justice, FBI and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Isabel Roque, 55, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres in Miami to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Roque was the president of Isa & Yami Inc., which purported to provide patient transportation services in Miami.
According to court documents, Roque agreed to provide Medicare beneficiaries to ATC for partial hospitalization program (PHP) services in exchange for kickbacks. A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. ATC purported to operate PHPs in seven different locations throughout south Florida and Orlando. According to court documents, Roque provided Medicare beneficiaries to four of ATC’s locations, including facilities in Boca Raton, Broward, Homestead and Miami.
Roque admitted that she knew the beneficiaries whom she referred to ATC did not need PHP treatment. Roque also knew that ATC fraudulently billed the Medicare program for the PHP services provided to the beneficiaries she referred. Roque often coached her referrals on what to say to doctors and therapists at ATC so that they could receive purported PHP services. According to court documents, Roque also paid kickbacks to the beneficiaries whom she referred to ATC in exchange for those beneficiaries agreeing to attend ATC.
According to court filings, ATC’s owners and operators paid kickbacks to owners and operators of assisted living facilities and halfway houses and to patient brokers in exchange for delivering ineligible patients to ATC and its related company, the American Sleep Institute (ASI). In some cases, the patients received a portion of those kickbacks. Throughout the course of the ATC conspiracy, millions of dollars in kickbacks were paid in exchange for Medicare beneficiaries who did not qualify for PHP services. The ineligible beneficiaries attended treatment programs that were not legitimate so that ATC and ASI could bill Medicare more than $200 million in medically unnecessary services.
According to the plea agreement, Roque’s participation in the fraud resulted in more than $3.8 million in fraudulent billing to the Medicare program. At sentencing, scheduled for Jan. 5, 2012, Roque faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
ATC, its management company Medlink Professional Management Group Inc., 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 to begin trial on April 9, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz.
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 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 1,140 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.