Owner of Home Health Care Provider and Accomplice Arrested in Scheme to Bribe Government Contractor
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 03, 2009|
Jeffrey H. Sloman, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Office, and Christopher B. Dennis, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, announced the unsealing of a complaint and the arrest today of Yosvany Collera, 37, of Miami, and Belkis Camara Marquez, 36, of Sunrise, in connection with a bribery scheme.
Collera and Marquez were arrested on a previously sealed criminal complaint charging them with corruptly bribing a public official to induce that person to do an act in violation of that person’s official duty, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 201(b)(1). They had their initial appearances in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum in Fort Lauderdale. Pretrial detention hearings are scheduled for Tuesday, December 8, at 10:00 in Fort Lauderdale before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry S. Seltzer.
According to an affidavit filed in the case, Collera is the owner and president of Lazaro Home Health Care, Inc., based in Miami. Lazaro Home Health Care had been a Medicare-certified home health services provider since 2005. From 2006 through August 2009, Lazaro Home Health Care submitted a total of approximately $10,467,300 in claims for reimbursement to Medicare for home health services purportedly provided to Medicare beneficiaries. Medicare paid a total of approximately $7,002,997 on those claims.
In August 2009, Safeguard Services LLC (“SGS”), a Program Safeguard Contractor with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) and the Zone Program Integrity Contractor for Florida, suspended Medicare payments to Lazaro Home Health Care and suspended its Medicare provider number. As the Zone Program Integrity Contractor, SGS works as part of the Medicare Integrity Program on behalf of CMS to address fraud, waste, and abuse by Medicare-certified health care providers. In this capacity, SGS suspended Lazaro Home Health Care following a determination that overpayments had been made, misrepresentations had occurred in claims submissions, and that certain other payments were not correct.
The affidavit also alleges that in October 2009, Camara, an acquaintance of Collera’s, contacted an SGS employee on behalf of Collera offering any amount of money to the SGS employee if the SGS employee would help Collera clear up his company’s problems.
In subsequent telephone conversations with Camara and Collera in November, the SGS employee, identified as a Cooperating Witness in an affidavit filed in the case, discussed Collera’s and Camara’s proposal with them. Collera allegedly told the SGS employee that Collera wanted his provider number back and told the employee that what Camara had offered was “100% guaranteed."
On Friday, November 13, 2009, the SGS employee met with Collera and Camara at a bookstore in Sunrise. During the meeting, Collera again told the SGS employee that Collera wanted his Medicare provider number restored and the payment suspension lifted. Collera told the SGS employee that Collera would pay the SGS employee $5,000 to do this, half now and half upon completion. Collera also told the SGS employee that Collera had other people he could bring to the SGS employee. When Collera and the SGS employee exited the bookstore, Collera handed $2,500 in cash to the SGS employee. “This is a tremendous problem you’re going to take off of me,” Collera told the SGS employee. “I’ll be grateful my whole life.”
In another telephone conversation one week later, Collera told the SGS employee that Collera was ready to give the SGS employee the rest of the “medicine,” referring to the second $2,500 payment, when everything was done.
“We will continue to investigate and prosecute those who try to compromise the integrity of Medicare’s fraud prevention contractors,” said Acting United States Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman, “just as aggressively as we do those whose fraud schemes deplete the Medicare Trust Fund.”
John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Office of the FBI stated, “This case shows the lengths criminals will go to commit health care fraud and how important it is to suspend Medicare payments as soon as possible. The FBI will continue to work with our partners to bring to justice those that are stealing U.S. taxpayers’ money and make medical care more expensive for all of us.”
Christopher Dennis, Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Division of HHS-OIG stated, “The diligent work of the Program Safeguard Contractors is but one of the fraud fighting mechanisms in place to protect the Medicare Trust Fund. We look forward to working with both our public and private-sector partners to fight health care fraud in all of its forms.”
This is the first prosecution in the Southern District of Florida involving attempted bribery of a Medicare Program Safeguard Contractor.
Mr. Sloman commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and thanked SGS and for its cooperation with the investigation. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Hunter.
A Complaint is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.