You are here

Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, August 19, 2021

Husband and Wife Sentenced in Large-Scale Fraud and Bribery Scheme Involving Two South Florida VA Hospitals

Miami, Florida – A federal district judge in Fort Lauderdale yesterday sentenced the last of 16 defendants for their roles in a large-scale kickback and bribery scheme involving employees and vendors of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers located in West Palm Beach and Miami. 

Earron Starks, 51, was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $2,451,000 in restitution.  His wife, Carlicha Starks, 42, was sentenced to three years of supervised release, including one year of home confinement, and ordered to pay $501,000 in restitution.

Earron and Carlicha Starks, both from Hallandale Beach, Florida, were vendors who sold supplies to the VA.  They, as did other vendors, paid kickbacks to VA employees in exchange for getting the VA’s business.  Court filings describe how in exchange for cash bribes, medical center employees used government credit cards to order medical and other hospital supplies from these corrupt vendors.  In some cases, the prices of the supplies were grossly inflated.  In other cases, the orders were only partially fulfilled or not fulfilled at all.  Ultimately, the fraud scheme enabled the Starks couple and other corrupt vendors to receive over $20 million in purchase orders with VA Medical Centers in West Palm Beach and Miami.

“There is no place for kickbacks in our veterans’ healthcare system,” said Juan Antonio Gonzalez, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.  “These crimes not only violate the public’s trust, they also compromise the integrity of programs intended to help those who have made great sacrifices for our country.  The United States Attorney’s Office will hold accountable anyone who tarnishes the VA through fraud, bribes, or other crimes.”

“These crimes were a gross violation of public trust and a threat to the resources used to care for our nation’s veterans and their families. The act of soliciting and accepting bribes undermines the vital work that honest VA employees do every day,” said David Spilker, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Criminal Investigations Division (VA-OIG, CI), Southeast Field Office.  “The VA OIG is grateful for the United States Attorney’s Office’s partnership in holding these defendants accountable.”

Fourteen additional defendants were charged for their roles in this scheme.  They pleaded guilty and received the following sentences:  

Defendants who worked at West Palm Beach VA Medical Center (Case Number 19-80223-CR-KAM).

  • Clinton Purvis, 54, of West Palm Beach, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, was sentenced to 27 months’ incarceration followed by 24 months of supervised release and ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution.
  • Christopher Young, 46, of West Palm Beach, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, was sentenced to 24 months’ probation.
  • Kenneth Scott, 61, of Riviera Beach, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, was sentenced to 24 months’ probation and ordered to pay $295,511 in restitution.
  • Robert “Bob” Johnson, 64, of West Palm Beach, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment followed by 24 months of supervised release and ordered to pay $800,000 in restitution.

Defendants who worked at Miami VA Medical Center.

  • Waymon Melvon Woods, 60, of Miami, pleaded guilty to one count of receiving a bribe as a public official and was sentenced to nine months’ incarceration, 36 months of supervised release and ordered to pay $120,505 in restitution (case number 19-20743-CR-FAM).
  • Don Anderson, 61, of Port St. Lucie, Fl., pleaded guilty to one count of receiving a bribe as a public official and was sentenced to 10 days of incarceration, 36 months of supervised release, and ordered to pay $31,579 in restitution (case number 19-20746-CR-FAM).
  • Jose Eugenio Cuervo, 55, of Miramar, Fl., pleaded guilty to one count of receiving a bribe as a public official and was sentenced to six months of home confinement, 36 months of supervised release, and ordered to pay $8,596 in restitution (case number 19-20748-CR-DPG).
  • Donnie Shatek Hawes, 37, of Cutler Bay, Fl., who pleaded guilty to one count of receiving a bribe as a public official, was sentenced to 5 days of incarceration, 24 months of probation, and ordered to pay $2,900 in restitution (case number 19-20745-CR-RNS).
  • Robert Lee James Harris, 46, of Miami Gardens, Fl., who pleaded guilty to one count of receiving a bribe as a public official, was sentenced to 6 months of home confinement, 36 months of probation and ordered to pay $7,775 (case number 19-20747-CR-RNS).
  • Emir Gilberto Reyes,55, of Homestead, Fl., who pleaded guilty to one count of receiving a bribe as a public official, was sentenced to 60 months of probation and ordered to pay $18,380 (case number 20-20098-CR-FAM).
  • Eugene Campbell, 62, of Miami Gardens, Fl., who pleaded guilty to one count of receiving a bribe as a public official, was sentenced to 36 months’ incarceration, 36 months of supervised release, and ordered to pay $592,717 in restitution (case number 19-20744-CR-UU).

Defendants who were VA supply vendors. 

  • Jorge Flores, 47, of Delray Beach, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud was sentenced to 18 months’ incarceration, 36 months of supervised release, and ordered to pay $2.1 million in restitution (case number 19-80200-CR-RS).
  • Robert Kozak, 75, of Boca Raton FL, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and was sentenced to 6 months’ incarceration, 36 months of supervised release, and ordered to pay $850,000 in restitution (case number 19-80201-CR-RS).
  • Vincent Bellafiore, 47, of Palm Beach Gardens, FL, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and was sentenced to 36 months’ probation and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine (case number 20-80077-CR-RS).

All VA employees were either terminated or resigned.  

The convictions were the result of a lengthy investigation by Special Agents of VA-OIG CI, who uncovered the extensive scheme after receiving an anonymous tip.  A related case in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania resulted in another VA employee being charged with bribery.  VA OIG, Criminal Investigations Division, is responsible for conducting independent investigations of VA’s expansive programs and operations, which includes the largest healthcare system in the country. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Perwin is prosecuting the case. 

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, under case number 19-80202-CR-WP.

###

Topic(s): 
Public Corruption
Contact: 
Marlene Rodriguez Special Counsel to the U.S. Attorney Public Affairs Officer USAFLS.News@usdoj.gov
Updated August 19, 2021