Straw Owner of Clinic Sentenced in Medicare Fraud Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 18, 2014|
WASHINGTON—A Florida man who had been the straw owner of a physical therapy rehabilitation facility has been sentenced to serve 30 months in prison for his role in a $28.3 million Medicare fraud scheme.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida A. Lee Bentley, III, Special Agent in Charge Paul Wysopal of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office, and Acting Special Agent in Charge Brian P. Martens of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Florida region made the announcement.
Roberto Fernandez Gonzalez, 63, formerly of southwest Florida, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew in the Middle District of Florida and was ordered to forfeit $446,738 and pay the same amount in restitution. Fernandez pleaded guilty on June 24, 2013, to conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
According to court documents, Fernandez and his co-conspirators used various physical therapy clinics and other business entities throughout Florida—including Rehab Dynamics Inc. in Venice, Florida—to submit approximately $28.3 million in fraudulent reimbursement claims to Medicare from 2005 through 2009. Medicare paid approximately $14.4 million on those claims.
Fernandez’s co-conspirators obtained and controlled Rehab Dynamics. They engaged in a sham sale of Rehab Dynamics to Fernandez, a Cuban immigrant with no background in the health care industry. Fernandez did not have the money to buy Rehab Dynamics. Instead, the co-conspirators paid Fernandez approximately $20,000 to serve as the straw owner of Rehab Dynamics from January 2008 through March 2008. During that time, Rehab Dynamics submitted approximately $1.6 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare seeking reimbursement for rehabilitation therapy services that were not provided. Medicare paid approximately $446,738 on those false claims.
This case is being investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Christopher J. Hunter and Andrew H. Warren of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant United States Attorney Simon A. Gaugush of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,700 defendants who have collectively 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 Team (HEAT), go to www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.