~‘Operation Dirty Dozen’ arrests shut down multi-county health care fraud scheme ~
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced the arrest of nine south Florida residents for their role in a multi-county health care fraud scheme that also involved criminal racketeering, money laundering and grand theft. The arrests were the result of a joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the Office of Statewide Prosecution and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services into allegations of fraudulent Medicaid and Medicare billing by Belle Glade Family Health Group, Inc., a Belle Glade clinic located in Palm Beach County.
“This was a sophisticated and complex organization that clearly required deliberative thought and development to carry out its criminal activities, one that required hard work and determination to bring to an end,” said Attorney General McCollum. “Whenever taxpayer-funded programs are defrauded, our citizens end up paying the price. This case is an excellent example of how diligent investigation and cooperative efforts can benefit Floridians in the long run.”
Arrested today was clinic owner Hortensia Escoto and her husband, Ricardo Escoto, as well as Blanca Marquez, Emelina Marquez, Zoraida Bayon, Maria Ponceleon, Dinorah Mateu and Luis Diaz of Miami-Dade County and Mary Lucey of Palm Beach County. The arrests were made by law enforcement officers with the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with assistance from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the Miami-Dade Police Department.
The investigation revealed that from October 2004 to October 2005, the defendants ran a sophisticated criminal organization that fraudulently billed the Medicaid and Medicare programs for HIV infusion treatments and drugs. The investigation further revealed that the defendants laundered the proceeds of their scam through a check cashing store, a durable medical equipment company and diagnostic center in Miami-Dade County, and a medical transportation company in Palm Beach County. They also used these businesses to provide cover for the organization’s racketeering activities.
Investigators estimate that the defendants fraudulently billed more than $5 million to the Medicaid and Medicare programs over a 12-month period.
Eight of the defendants are being held at the Miami-Dade County jail awaiting extradition to Palm Beach County while Lucey is being held at the Palm Beach County jail. Clinic owner Nieves Delgado and her husband, William Alvarez, are still at large as is a twelfth defendant, Jacqueline Reigosa. Each will be charged with multiple counts of racketeering, organized fraud, money laundering and grand theft. If convicted, each individual faces up to 105 years in prison. The case will be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.
Delgado, Alvarez, Hortensia, and Escoto were arrested by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in July 2006 on separate charges and are currently awaiting trial in Palm Beach County.
A copy of the criminal charges filed against the 12 defendants is available online at:
A copy of the pictures of the defendants and the Belle Glade clinic is available online at: