Former Railroad Employee Sentenced to Two and a Half Years in Federal Prison for Fraudulently Obtaining Disability Benefits
CHICAGO — The owner of a north suburban home health care company has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for paying illegal kickbacks for patient referrals.
As the owner of Glenview-based TLC Healthcare Services of Illinois Inc., NORMA DE LA CRUZ paid recruiters $500 to $600 for each Medicare patient referred to her company. TLC then billed Medicare for home health services purportedly provided to the patients. De la Cruz attempted to conceal the payments by using sham contracts that claimed the recruiters provided “marketing” services. From 2012 to 2014, TLC fraudulently caused Medicare to pay out more than $390,000.
De la Cruz, 81, of Glenview, pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to offer and pay unlawful kickbacks. U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer imposed the 18-month prison sentence Monday in federal court in Chicago.
The sentence was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Region of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.
The government is represented by Trial Attorney Leslie S. Garthwaite of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division Fraud Section and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel R. Levin of the Northern District of Illinois.
De la Cruz, who was also a registered nurse at the time of the scheme, controlled bank accounts in TLC’s name as well as an account she held personally, both of which were used to pay bribes and kickbacks. She admitted in a plea agreement that she sought recruiters who would refer patients to TLC in exchange for a per-patient referral fee. De la Cruz paid one recruiter at least $65,000 in exchange for his patient referrals.
The government argued in its sentencing memorandum that de la Cruz used much of the proceeds from the conspiracy to gamble at a Chicago-area casino. During the approximate period of the conspiracy, de la Cruz incurred gambling losses of $245,000. The government also noted in its sentencing memorandum that de la Cruz had an additional $76,000 in gambling losses in the period from her initial court appearance in this case in June 2016 until her guilty plea in October 2017.