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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Fifteen Individuals Charged for Roles in Fraud and Bribery Scheme at Two South Florida VA Hospitals

Fifteen South Florida residents have been charged by federal authorities in connection with a kickback and bribery scheme involving employees and vendors of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers located in West Palm Beach and Miami, Florida. Court filings allege that in exchange for cash bribes and kickback payments, medical center employees, using government credit cards, ordered medical and other hospital supplies through corrupt vendors.  In some cases, the prices of the supplies were grossly inflated, while in other cases the orders were only partially fulfilled or not fulfilled at all.

U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan for the Southern District of Florida stated, “It is a very sad day when public employees are alleged to have violated their duty to provide honest services to the VA, a federal agency that furnishes critical medical services to our military veterans.   These charges do not reflect the hard work and integrity of the hundreds of thousands of law abiding VA employees throughout the United States.  Together, alongside our VA partners, we will continue to protect our federal programs, combat public corruption, and ensure that our veterans receive the care and quality services that they are owed.”

Michael Missal, Inspector General, and David Spilker, Special Agent in Charge at the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) stated, “VA OIG will vigorously investigate alleged instances when government employees unjustly enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting bribes and kickbacks from vendors for preferential treatment.  The defendants’ actions, as alleged in the indictments and informations, breach the public trust, undermine the integrity of VA’s operations, and tarnish the important work that honest VA employees do every day in support of our nation’s veterans.”         

West Palm Beach VA employees Clinton Purvis, 52, of West Palm Beach, Christopher Young, 44, of West Palm Beach, and Kenneth Scott, 59, of Riviera Beach, as well as former West Palm Beach VA employee Robert “Bob” Johnson, 62, of West Palm Beach,  were charged in a single indictment with offenses that include conspiracy to commit health care fraud, substantive counts of health care fraud, and bribery.  Miami VA Medical Center employees Waymon Melvon Woods, 58, of Miami, Don Anderson, 59, of Port St. Lucie, Jose Eugenio Cuervo, 53, of Miramar, Donnie Shatek Hawes, 35, of Cutler Bay, and Robert Lee James Harris, 44, of Miami Gardens, as well as former employee Eugene Campbell, 60, of Miami Gardens, were each charged in separate indictments with bribery offenses.  VA supply vendors Jorge Flores, 45, of Delray Beach, Earron Starks, 49, of Hallandale Beach, Carlicha Starks, 40, of Hallandale Beach, and Robert Kozak, 73, of Boca Raton, have been charged in criminal informations with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.  Separately, Lisa M. Anderson, 48, of Delray Beach, has been charged with making false statements in connection with an application filed with the VA to have one of the vendor companies falsely designated as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business.  

According to the facts alleged in the indictments and criminal informations, the charged employees worked in logistics departments of the West Palm Beach and the Miami VA Medical Centers and were responsible for ensuring that medical and other hospital supplies were purchased and received.  It is alleged that at the West Palm Beach VA, Purvis, Johnson, and Scott would place orders for supplies with the complicit vendors that were either fictitious or contained inflated quantities.  The vendors would then invoice the VA for the fictitious or inflated orders.  Purvis, Johnson, and Scott would authorize the payment of VA funds to the vendors, who would then kick-back a portion of the proceeds to Purvis, Johnson, and Scott.  Purvis and Johnson paid a portion of those proceeds to Young, in exchange for his agreement to falsely enter the supplies as having been received in the VA computer system.  At the Miami VA Medical Center, Campbell, Woods, Anderson, Cuervo, Hawes, and Harris each accepted cash bribe payments in exchange for placing orders for supplies with Flores’ and Earron and Claricha Starks’ companies.  As a result of these schemes, the defendants caused the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to pay millions of dollars for inflated or unfulfilled purchase orders.

Indictments and criminal informations are charging instruments containing allegations.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

These cases were investigated by Special Agents of VA OIG and are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Roger H. Stefin and Amanda Perwin.

In November of this year, the Justice Department announced the formation of the new Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF) focusing on deterring, detecting, investigating and prosecuting antitrust crimes, such as bid-rigging conspiracies and related fraudulent schemes, which undermine competition in government procurement, grant and program funding.  The PCSF is an interagency partnership, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and federal law enforcement partners.

To learn more about the PCSF or how to report suspected criminal activity affecting public procurement, please visit https://www.justice.gov/procurement-collusion-strike-force. Anyone with information concerning anticompetitive conduct involving federal taxpayer dollars is encouraged to contact the PCSF directly by emailing pcsf@usdoj.gov.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Updated December 11, 2019