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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Puerto Rico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 17, 2018

US Department Of Health & Human Services, Office Of Inspector General Honors US Attorney’s Office- District Of PR With Two Achievement Awards

SAN JUAN, P.R. –The United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General has honored the US Attorney’s Office, District of Puerto Rico with two distinguished awards, the Inspector General Cooperative Achievement Award, and the Inspector General’s Award for Fighting Fraud, Waste, and Abuse, announced US Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez.

This year’s Inspector General Cooperative Achievement Award recognizes a group of individuals from different federal and state agencies in Puerto Rico whose leadership, commitment, hard work, dedication, and cooperative achievements in the relief efforts following the Hurricane María’s aftermath, also known as the Puerto Rico Quality of Care and Patient Relief Effort/Elderly Task Force.

The USAO-PR recipients are US Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, Executive Assistant US Attorney Jacqueline D. Novas, AUSA Olga Castellón-Miranda, and Paralegal Specialist Cristzayda Matos.

On September 20 2017, Hurricane Maria crossed directly over the island of Puerto Rico, which was still in the process of recovering from the effects of the previous Hurricane, Irma. The entire island was without power, water, and there was almost no cell service. There was severe flooding, buildings had sustained structural damage, and the roads were impassible due to downed electrical power lines and trees.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico partnered with HHS-OIG, the Puerto Rico Department of Justice, other state and federal agencies and took a lead role on a quality of care initiative, conducting site surveys at elderly homes throughout the island, investigating potential quality of care issues while providing assistance and resources such as food, water, and hygiene products to those elderly homes residents. As a result of this initiative, a total of 839 elderly homes were visited and approximately 16,330 elderly patients were assisted as of December 2017. This initiative also led to the prosecution of an elderly homeowner who physically abuse of elderly patients.

During the initiative, these volunteers worked under challenging conditions in areas that had substantial debris and had no electrical power. Despite these obstacles, they made great contributions to the health and welfare of the sick and elderly citizens of Puerto Rico.

The Inspector General’s Award for Fighting Fraud, Waste, and Abuse, was granted to an outstanding team that investigated and prosecuted a group of government employees from the Puerto Rico Department of Health who conspired to defraud the Medicaid Program in PR. The recipients are: Assistant US Attorney and Criminal Division Chief José Capó-Iriarte, AUSAs Luke Cass, Seth Erbe, Rafael López, Chief of the Civil Division Héctor Ramírez-Carbó and Special AUSA Amanda Soto.

On February 24, 2016, a Federal Grand Jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a fourteen-count indictment against eight individuals for bribery, health care fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, mail fraud, false statements related to health care matters and aggravated identity theft.

The collaboration in this case marked the first time in which health care fraud violations related to the Medicaid program were charged in an Office of Investigation lead investigation in Puerto Rico. The collaboration also marked the first time criminal and civil actions were pursued against Medicaid participants. Furthermore, this collaboration also resulted in the administrative disenrollment of hundreds of Medicaid participants suspected of providing false statements during their enrollment process.

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Topic(s): 
Community Outreach
Health Care Fraud
Component(s): 
Updated May 17, 2018