A former office manager at the defunct health care provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN) was sentenced today in Miami to serve 68 months in prison for her role in a fraud scheme that resulted in more than $63 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare and Florida Medicaid.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Steinbach of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Office of Investigations Miami office made the announcement.
Lisset Palmero, 45, of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida. In addition to her prison term, Palmero was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $17.4 million.
During the course of the conspiracy, Palmero was employed as a receptionist and office manager at HCSN, a mental health facility that purported to provide Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) services. A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness.
HCSN of Florida (HCSN-FL) operated community mental health centers at two locations. According to court documents, Palmero was aware that HCSN-FL paid illegal kickbacks to owners and operators of Miami-Dade County Assisted Living Facilities (ALF) in exchange for patient referral information to be used to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid. Palmero also knew that many of the ALF referral patients were ineligible for PHP services because they suffered from mental retardation, dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
Court documents reveal that Palmero was aware that HCSN-FL personnel were fabricating patient medical records. Many of these medical records were created weeks or months after the patients were admitted to HCSN-FL for purported PHP treatment. Palmero was also aware that medical records were fabricated for “ghost patients” who were never admitted to the HCSN-FL PHP. During her employment at HCSN-FL, Palmero actively concealed the fabrication of medical records by preparing, and causing others to prepare, documentation that was later utilized to support false and fraudulent billing to government-sponsored health care benefit programs, including Medicare and Florida Medicaid.
According to court documents, from 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Florida Medicaid program approximately $63 million for purported HCSN-FL mental health services.
This case is being investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina and former Special Trial Attorney William J. Parente.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is 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.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.