5 August, 2004 – Legal news, law news, law firm news & research on LAWFUELMarcos Daniel Jiménez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Michael S. Clemens, Acting Special Agent in Charge, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Brian J. Wimpling, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, announced today that a 79-count Indictment has been unsealed charging seven individuals stemming from a long-term health care fraud investigation involving Medicare. The Indictment charges Lazaro Betancourt, Carlos Marx Mesa, Kenia Mesa, Osvaldo Piedra, Viridiana Negrin, Gilberto Herrera, and Guillermo Carnet with conspiracy to money launder, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h) and conspiracy to commit health care fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Some of the defendants are also charged with substantive health care fraud and money laundering counts, and with conspiracy to structure financial transactions.
The money laundering charge carries a statuary maximum penalty of twenty (20) years’ imprisonment. The charge provides for a possible fine equal to twice the amount of money defrauded from Medicare. The Indictment also seeks forfeiture of the ill-gotten gains. The Indictment alleges the defendants have laundered 4 million dollars during the course of the conspiracy and committed 7 million dollars in health care fraud.
The Medicare program is a federal program which helps pay for health care for the aged, blind and disabled. Under Medicare, the intended purpose of durable medical equipment (DME) providers is for them to furnish equipment, such as knee braces, prosthetic limbs, back braces, and wheel chairs, for eligible persons with illnesses or disabilities which qualify them to receive such DME.
As a result of this investigation, in addition to this Indictment, over 25 Informations have been filed charging 26 individuals with health care fraud, and violating currency transaction reporting requirements. According to this Indictment, and the Informations previously filed, these individuals, and others, formed bogus DME companies and billed for DME services which were neither rendered nor provided. The DME companies then billed Medicare knowing that Medicare beneficiaries did not receive DME services or products, and in many instances the beneficiaries were unqualified to receive such services or products. Some of the defendants also participated in and participated in check cashing schemes. Lazaro Betancourt, Carlos Marx Mesa, Kenia Mesa, Osvaldo Piedra, Viridiana Negrin, Gilberto Herrera, and Guillermo Carnet operated or participated in a number of these DME companies which fraudulently billed Medicare. The Indictment also alleges,
among other things, that these defendants laundered the fraudulently acquired Medicare proceeds.
This Indictment and the Informations previously filed, are a result of a continuing three-year investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Health Care Fraud Squad, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division.
Mr. Jiménez commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney E.J. Yera.