Two Patient Recruiters Sentenced in Miami for Roles in $50 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme
|U.S. Department of Justice November 16, 2012|
WASHINGTON—Two former patient recruiters for Miami-based mental health clinic Biscayne Milieu Health Care Inc. were sentenced today for their participation in a Medicare fraud scheme involving the submission of more than $50 million in fraudulent billings to Medicare, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge 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.
Anthony Roberts, 45, and Derek Alexander, 39, both of Miami, were each sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. in the Southern District of Florida. Roberts was sentenced to serve 87 months in prison and ordered to pay $887,085 in restitution. Alexander was sentenced to serve 42 months in prison and ordered to pay $300,876 in restitution.
Roberts and Alexander were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit a health care kickback scheme and a substantive kickback charge on August 24, 2012, after a two-month trial.
Various owners, doctors, managers, therapists, patient brokers, and other employees of Biscayne Milieu were charged with various health care fraud, kickback, money laundering, and other offenses in two indictments unsealed in September 2011 and June 2012. Biscayne Milieu, its owners, and more than 25 of the individual defendants charged in these cases have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial. Antonio and Jorge Macli and Sandra Huarte, the owners and operators of Biscayne Milieu, and Dr. Gary Kushner, its medical director, were each convicted of various offenses at trial and will be sentenced on December 20, 2012.
Evidence at trial demonstrated that the defendants and their co-conspirators caused the submission of millions of dollars in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare through Biscayne Milieu, a Florida corporation headquartered in Miami that operated a purported partial hospitalization program (PHP) in Miami. A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. Biscayne Milieu purported to provide PHP services for Medicare beneficiaries suffering from mental illnesses. In fact, however, the co-conspirators devised a scheme in which they paid patient recruiters, such as Roberts and Alexander, to refer ineligible Medicare beneficiaries to Biscayne Milieu for purported PHP services that were never provided. Many of the patients admitted to Biscayne Milieu were not eligible for PHP because they were chronic substance abusers, suffered from severe dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and would not benefit from group therapy, or had no mental health diagnosis at all but were seeking fraudulent mental health treatment in order to be declared exempt from certain requirements for their applications for United States citizenship. The evidence at trial showed that Alexander and Roberts solicited and received illegal kickbacks in exchange for sending ineligible patients to Biscayne Milieu.
The criminal case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Davis and Marlene Rodriguez of the Southern District of Florida and by Trial Attorney James V. Hayes of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The investigation was led by the FBI with the assistance of HHS-OIG and was brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida in coordination with the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by 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 more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is 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.