Lawrence Duran and Marianella Valera must be kept in jail because much of the $83 million that Medicare paid their chain of mental health clinics since 2003 is still unaccounted for, U.S. Magistrate Andrea Simonton ruled Tuesday, The Miami Herald reported.
They face 25 to 30 years in prison if convicted and if released on bond could flee the country, possibly to Valera's native Peru, she said.
The couple are accused of altering the diagnoses and medications of patients -- many with dementia or Alzheimer's – to conceal that their company, American Therapeutic Corp., was billing for bogus therapy without benefit.
"They would change from being bipolar to schizophrenic suddenly, and that doesn't happen in the real world," said Justice Department attorney Jennifer Saulino, citing inside information from cooperating witnesses. But she did not accuse the couple of actually harming patients.
Saulino also said the defendants set up a company called MedLink Professional Management Group solely to receive Medicare funds from American Therapeutic and to divert the money to them and associates.