Four Patient Recruiters Plead Guilty in Miami to Roles in $20 Million Health Care Fraud Sheme
WASHINGTON—Four patient recruiters pleaded guilty in connection with a $20 million health care fraud scheme involving Trust Care Health Services Inc. (Trust Care), a defunct home health care company.
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 Acting Special Agent in Charge Ryan Lynch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami office made the announcement.
At a hearing today before U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles of the Southern District of Florida, Estrella Perez, 57, and Solchys Perez, 34, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and Abigail Aguila, 40, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and receive health care kickbacks. Sentencing for all three defendants is set for Sept. 18, 2014 in front of Judge Gayles. On June 17, 2014, another co-defendant, Monica Macias, 52, pleaded guilty to 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. Sentencing for Macias is set for Sept. 10, 2014 before Judge Gayles.
According to court documents, the defendants worked as patient recruiters for the owners and operators of Trust Care, a Miami home health care agency that purported to provide home health and physical therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries. Trust Care was operated for the purpose of billing the Medicare Program for, among other things, expensive physical therapy and home health care services that were not medically necessary and/or were not provided.
The defendants recruited patients for Trust Care and solicited and received kickbacks and bribes from the owners and operators of Trust Care in return for allowing the agency to bill the Medicare program on behalf of the recruited Medicare patients. These Medicare beneficiaries were billed for home health care and therapy services that were not medically necessary and/or were not provided.
Estrella Perez and Solchys Perez also paid kickbacks and bribes to co-conspirators in doctors’ offices and clinics in exchange for providing home health and therapy prescriptions, plans of care, and medical certifications for their recruited patients. Co-conspirators at Trust Care then used these prescriptions, plans of care and medical certifications to fraudulently bill the Medicare program for home health care services.
From approximately March 2007 through at least January 2010, Trust Care submitted more than $20 million in claims for home health services. Medicare paid Trust Care more than $15 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 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 Attorneys A. Brendan Stewart and 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 1,900 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 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.