LAWFUEL – Attorney General Bill McCollum announced the arrests today of Esther Romeu, a Miami health clinic owner, and five South Florida physicians on charges of defrauding the Medicare and Medicaid programs out of more than $15 million. The doctors and clinic owner are alleged to have run an elaborate scheme involving costly treatments for HIV/AIDS.
“This case is particularly egregious because of the magnitude of the fraud involved,” said Attorney General McCollum. “Not only did these physicians fail to meet even minimal standards for monitoring or treating HIV, they apparently allowed their greed to bilk the system out of millions of dollars that could have been used to help other patients in need.”
Ms. Romeu owned and operated Diagnostic Medical Choice, Inc., a health clinic located at 85 Grand Canal Drive, Suite 408, in Miami. Also arrested were Walter F. Proano, Manuel Barbeite, Alejandro Enrique Casuso, Carmen Lourdes Del Cueto and Marco Tulio Molinares, all doctors licensed in Florida and employed by Romeu.
The arrests culminate a joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Federal Bureau of Investigation into outrageous billing patterns for extremely expensive Intravenous Immune Globulin (“IVIG”) medications used to treat HIV/AIDS-related conditions.
IVIG medications are supposed to be infused into the patients once a month with careful monitoring of the patient’s blood count and detailed reports on the infusions. Instead, the defendants alleged that they were infusing the patients three times a week with IVIG, in some cases for several years, without performing any of the necessary lab work or obtaining any infusion reports which are essential to meaningful treatment. The prescribing of these drugs in the frequency alleged is not only medically inappropriate, but could have been dangerous to patients’ health.
Investigators believe Romeu and her physician accomplices billed the Medicare and Florida Medicaid programs $19,582,042 and were paid
$15,968,424 for the IVIG medications from January 2003 through July 2006.
Ms. Romeu is charged with Conspiracy to Commit Health Care Fraud and eight
counts of Health Care Fraud. Drs. Molinares, Del Cueto and Barbeite are
each charged with Conspiracy to Commit Health Care Fraud and two counts of Health Care Fraud. Drs. Proano and Casuso are each charged with Conspiracy to Commit Health Care Fraud and one count of Health Care Fraud. Each defendant faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of the Indictment in which they are named. The defendants are in federal custody in the Southern District.
ESTHER ROMEU, 8550 S.W. 4 Street, Miami, Florida
WALTER F. PROANO, 4646 SW 179 Way, Miramar, Fl 33029
MANUEL BARBEITE, 11970 S.W. 46 Street, Miami, Florida
ALEJANDRO ENRIQUE CASUSO, 12310 N.W. 7 Trail, Miami, Florida
CARMEN LOURDES DEL CUETO, 15121 S.W. 34 Terrace, Miami, Florida and
MARCO TULIO MOLINARES, 5660 S.W. 149 Avenue, Miami, Florida