16 February 2005 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Marcos Daniel Jiménez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Linda S. Little, Special Agent in Charge, Office of the Inspector General, United States Department of Health and Human Services; and Michael S. Clemens, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced today that defendant, Alberto Bengochea, made his initial appearance in federal court yesterday, February 14, 2005. Bengochea is charged in a two-count Information in connection with a widespread kickback network involving local assisted living facilities, medical equipment companies, pharmacies, and physicians.
Bengochea is charged in the Information with two (2) counts of conspiracy, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. If convicted, Bengochea faces a maximum statutory sentence of five (5) years’ imprisonment per count. To date, twenty-one (21) defendants have been convicted of kickback and Medicare fraud related charges in connection with this investigation.
As alleged in the Information, Bengochea owned and operated several medical equipment companies and pharmacies in Miami-Dade County. Between November 1998 and June 2004, Bengochea established arrangements with approximately two hundred and thirty (230) Medicare beneficiaries who agreed to let Bengochea use their Medicare numbers to submit fraudulent Medicare claims for unnecessary respiratory equipment and related medications, in return for monthly kickback payments. In order to obtain the necessary prescriptions to submit these claims, Bengochea also paid collusive physicians who would sign prescriptions in which they falsely certified the medical necessity of such equipment and medications. After receiving the fraudulent prescriptions, Bengochea would deliver the equipment and a monthly supply of medications to the beneficiaries and then submit Medicare claims seeking reimbursement for the cost of such equipment. When he received payment from Medicare for these claims, Bengochea would deliver the cash kickback payments, which were typically between $100 and $150 per month, to the patients.
During the course of this scheme, Bengochea paid over $1.5 million in kickbacks to physicians and patients. The payment of these kickbacks resulted in the submission of millions of dollars worth of false Medicare claims, for which Bengochea received approximately $3.9 million.
Bengochea, as alleged in the Information, was also involved in a second scheme, which spanned from January 1999 through April 2004, in which he paid illegal kickbacks to medical equipment owners in return for their referral of patients to his pharmacies. The medical equipment owners would refer patients who purportedly needed respiratory medications to Bengochea’s pharmacies. Bengochea would deliver respiratory medications to the referred patients on a monthly basis and then bill Medicare each month for the cost of such medications. After receiving his monthly payment from Medicare, Bengochea would kickback approximately 50% of the payment to the medical equipment owners as a referral fee.
During the course of this scheme, Bengochea paid more than $2.5 million in illegal kickbacks to medical equipment owners in return for their referrals.
Mr. Jiménez commended the investigative efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Adrienne Rabinowitz.
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 District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on .