11 June – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Marcos Daniel Jiménez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael S. Clemens, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Linda S. Little, Special Agent in Charge, Office of Inspector General, United States Department of Health and Human Services, announced today that a federal jury returned guilty verdicts on four defendants in United States v. Isabel Guerra, 05-20144-Cr- Huck. The criminal trial of this complex medicare fraud and money laundering operation lasted almost two weeks, after which the United States presented additional evidence to support substantial forfeitures.
Isabel Guerra, 39, of Hialeah Gardens, Carlos Gonzalez, 45, of Miami, Isabel Canepa, 40, of Hialeah, and Pura Medina, 37, of Hialeah Gardens, were all convicted of conspiracy to interfere with the Department of Health and Human Services in its administration of Medicare, to commit health care fraud and to pay kickbacks; multiple counts of health care fraud; conspiracy to commit money laundering; and multiple substantive money laundering counts. The conspiracy to commit health care fraud carries a five year maximum sentence. Each substantive health care fraud count carries a maximum ten year sentence. The conspiracy to commit money laundering and the substantive money laundering counts carry a twenty year maximum sentence.
The evidence at trial established that Gonzalez and Guerra where owners of United Pharmacy Discount and Ocean Medical Supplies. According to the evidence, they, along with defendant Medina, who worked at United, and defendant Canepa, who worked at Ocean, paid kickbacks to patient recruiters for them to provide the defendants and their companies with Medicare-eligible beneficiaries for which they could bill Medicare. They also paid kickbacks directly to patients in exchange for the use of their names and identification numbers, and for prescriptions for durable medical equipment (DME) and prescription drugs.
Once they had patient information, the defendants also completed Medicare required orthotics measurement forms without ever having measured a patient, forged the signatures of doctors of prescriptions for DME and prescription drugs and created entirely fraudulent patient files, containing manufactured and forged documents. The companies would then share patients between the defendants’ two companies, billing Medicare for reimbursement of the cost of the DME and prescription drugs.
The defendants then laundered the proceeds of the fraud by paying someone whom they believed was a professional money launderer, In fact, however, this person was a cooperating witness working for the federal agents and recording all of their transactions. The defendants needed to convert checks into cash in order to pay their patient recruiters for bringing in patients.
After the jury returned guilty verdicts, the government proceeded to prove the forfeiture aspect of the case. In April of 2003, the Government obtained a civil restraining order freezing approximately $10 million which Medicare had paid out to the defendants during the length of the conspiracy. The Indictment included a criminal forfeiture count detailing the assets frozen in the civil case, as well as additional cars, boats and other bank accounts discovered during subsequent investigation. The jury hearing the forfeiture case also found in favor of the Government, awarding forfeiture of approximately $10 million, as well as houses, cars, boats, motorcycles and bank accounts.
The United States Attorney commends the investigative efforts of Special Agents Wende Evans and Janel Lobur of the FBI, and Special Agent John Mejia of HHS for their outstanding work in the case. The case was prosecuted by AUSAS Luis M. Pérez and Ana Maria Martinez.