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November 13, 2014

Five Florida Residents Plead Guilty for Roles in $6 Million Miami Home Health Care Fraud Scheme

WASHINGTON—Five South Florida residents pleaded guilty this week in connection with a long-running $6.2 million Medicare fraud scheme involving Professional Medical Home Health LLC (Professional Home Health), a Miami home health care agency that purported to provide home health and therapy services. Two of the defendants also pleaded guilty in connection with their conduct in similar schemes at other Miami home health care agencies.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office made the announcement.

Dennis Hernandez, 32, of Miami, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and Juan Valdes, 37, of Palm Springs, Florida, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and receive health care kickbacks before U.S. Magistrate Judge Chris M. McAliley of the Southern District of Florida on Nov. 10. 2014. Jose Alvarez, 48, and Joel San Pedro, 44, both of Miami, and Alina Hernandez, 38, of West Palm Beach, Florida, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud on Nov. 13, 2014 before Judge McAliley. Sentencing hearings are set for Jan. 29, 2015.

According to admissions in their plea agreements, Dennis Hernandez, San Pedro and Alvarez held positions of influence at Professional Home Health, including those of owner/operator and manager/supervisor. Through Professional Home Health, they billed the Medicare program for expensive physical therapy and home health services that were not medically necessary or were not provided. The three defendants admitted that they and their co-conspirators coordinated the submission of fraudulent claims at Professional Home Health, and falsified patient documentation to make it appear that Medicare beneficiaries qualified for and received home health services that were, in fact, not medically necessary or not provided.

Additionally, each of the five defendants admitted to being patient recruiters for Professional Home Health. In this role, they solicited and received kickbacks and bribes from other co-conspirators at Professional Home Health in exchange for recruiting beneficiaries who neither needed, nor, in some cases, received services.

Dennis Hernandez and Alvarez also admitted to participating in similar criminal conduct at additional Miami-area home health agencies.

From December 2008 through February 2014, Medicare paid Professional Home Health more than $6.2 million for these fraudulent home health claims.

Earlier this year, two other individuals pleaded guilty and were sentenced in connection with the same scheme. Annarella Garcia, an owner of Professional Home Health, was sentenced to serve 70 months in prison. Annilet Dominguez, an administrator of Professional Home Health, was sentenced to serve 68 months in prison. Both were also ordered to pay $6,257,142 million in restitution.

This case was 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 Southern District of Florida. This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Anne P. McNamara of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & 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.

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