Two Patient Recruiters for Miami Home Health Companies Sentenced for Roles in $48 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
|U.S. Department of Justice December 12, 2013|
WASHINGTON—Two patient recruiters for Miami health care companies were sentenced today for their participation in a $48 million home health Medicare fraud scheme.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, 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 after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard in the Southern District of Florida.
Elizabeth Monteagudo, 33, of Miami, was sentenced to serve 70 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $3.5 million in restitution jointly and severally with co-defendants. Cristobal Gonzalez, 39, of Miami, was sentenced to serve 46 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $2 million in restitution jointly and severally with co-defendants.
In September 2013, Monteagudo and Gonzalez each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to receive health care kickbacks. Monteagudo also pleaded guilty to receiving kickbacks in connection with a federal health care program.
According to court documents, Monteagudo and Gonzalez were patient recruiters who worked for Caring Nurse Home Health Care Corp., and Gonzalez also worked for Good Quality Home Health Care Inc. Caring Nurse and Good Quality were Miami home health care agencies that purported to provide home health and therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries.
According to court documents, from approximately January 2009 through approximately June 2011, Monteagudo and Gonzalez would recruit patients for Caring Nurse and/or Good Quality and would solicit and receive kickbacks and bribes from the owners and operators of Caring Nurse and/or Good Quality in return for allowing the agency to bill the Medicare program on behalf of the recruited patients. These Medicare beneficiaries were billed for home health care and therapy services that were medically unnecessary and/or not provided.
Monteagudo also admitted to her involvement with $7 million in fraudulent billings for Starlite Home Health Agency Inc., which she owned and operated.
In a related case, on February 27, 2013, Rogelio Rodriguez and Raymond Aday, the owners and operators of Caring Nurse and Good Quality, were sentenced to serve 108 and 51 months in prison, respectively. Their sentencings followed their December 2012 guilty pleas each to one count of conspiring to commit health care fraud charged in an October 2012 indictment. According to that indictment, from approximately January 2006 through June 2011, Caring Nurse and Good Quality submitted approximately $48 million in claims for home health services that were not medically necessary and/or not provided. Medicare actually paid approximately $33 million for these fraudulent claims.
The case was 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 is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Joseph S. Beemsterboer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,700 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are 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.