Two Additional Defendants Sentenced to Prison in Conspiracy That Looted Money from Nonprofit Mental Health Clinic
Two former employees of the Juniata Community Mental Health Clinic in Philadelphia were sentenced today for their roles in the conspiracy led by Renee Tartaglione, the former head of the nonprofit mental health clinic, to take money from the clinic, announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Special Agent in Charge Michael T. Harpster of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division and Special Agent in Charge Guy Ficco of IRS Criminal Investigation (CI).
Sandy Acosta, 72, of Philadelphia, Pa., former Administrator of the clinic, and Amalia Rodriguez, 48, also of Philadelphia, Pa., former billing clerk for the clinic, were sentenced today to serve 18 months and six months in federal prison, respectively, followed by three years of supervised release. Sandy Acosta and Amalia Rodriguez also were ordered to pay $793,000 in restitution to the Pennsylvania Attorney General in trust for a successor to the clinic, jointly and severally with Tartaglione, who was sentenced in July 2018, and Acosta’s daughter, former Pennsylvania State Representative Leslie Acosta, a former employee of the clinic who also participated in the scheme.
“Sandy Acosta and Amalia Rodriguez facilitated Renee Tartaglione’s theft of over $2 million from important taxpayer-funded programs for individuals in need of mental health treatment,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. “Their convictions and today’s sentences demonstrate the Justice Department’s commitment to work with our federal and state partners to hold accountable those who seek to line their own pockets by defrauding institutions that serve vulnerable individuals.”
“The defendants worked together to cheat economically disadvantaged people with mental health issues out of funds that were intended to provide treatment and other services,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Instead, the defendants used these funds for their own personal enrichment, depriving others of help that they desperately needed. This was a gross abuse of the trust placed in these defendants, and I am glad that my Office and our law enforcement partners have held them accountable for their crimes.”
“Looting money from Medicare strains the system and cheats the taxpayers who fund it,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Harpster. “This conspiracy diverted funds meant for mental health treatment for the community’s underserved—a serious breach of trust, and of the law. The FBI is committed to fighting health care fraud, one case at a time, and seeing perpetrators held accountable.”
“Ms. Acosta and Ms. Rodriguez helped steal money that was allotted for the treatment of mental health patients; depriving them of much needed mental health services,” said IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Ficco. “Their sentences are indications of how unacceptable their actions were. IRS-Criminal Investigation is proud to have joined forces with our law enforcement partners to bring these defendants to justice.”
Sandy Acosta and Rodriguez previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud, theft from a health care benefit program, and aggravated identity theft. Sandy Acosta also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. The charges arose out of the women’s agreement to cash unearned checks from the clinic and give the cash to Tartaglione, who at the time was President of the Board of Directors of the clinic.
Sandy Acosta agreed to cooperate with the government in its investigation of Tartaglione and testified at Tartaglione’s federal criminal trial in 2017. Leslie Acosta previously pleaded guilty and also agreed to cooperate against Tartaglione.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the IRS Criminal Investigation, and the Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General. Trial Attorney Peter N. Halpern of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Bea L. Witzleben of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania prosecuted the case.