20 charged with Medicare fraud in Florida

Feb. 15, 2011 at 4:26 PM
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MIAMI, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A federal grand jury in Florida has indicted 20 people, including three doctors, for their alleged roles in a $200 million Medicare fraud scheme.

The defendants are charge with various counts of healthcare fraud, kickback and money-laundering charges, the U.S. Justice and Health and Human Services departments said in a release.

The defendants, who worked with and for American Therapeutic Corp. and Medlink Professional Management Group Inc., allegedly schemed to defraud Medicare by submitting false claims for mental health services administered at ATC facilities that were medically unnecessary or not provided at all. The government accuses them of paying kickbacks to patient brokers and owners and operators of halfway houses and assisted-living facilities in exchange for delivering patients to ATC facilities.

They also allegedly were part of a money-laundering scheme related to the cash for kickback payments.

Sixteen defendants were arrested Tuesday and were to appear in U.S. District Court in Miami. More arrests are expected in the coming days.

ATC's and Medlink's owners and managers, Lawrence S. Duran, Marianella Valera, Judith Negron and Margarita Acevedo, were originally indicted along with the two companies in October. The superseding 38-count indictment unsealed Tuesday in the Southern District of Florida charges them with additional offenses.

"As today's charges reflect, defrauding the Medicare system was not an aberration at ATC, but instead part and parcel of its business operations," Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said. "The alleged scheme was brazen in scope, and carried out by the company's owners, doctors, marketers and others."

Daniel R. Levinson, HHS inspector general, said the arrests "show that we will not tolerate criminals who pay kickbacks for referrals of Medicare business or who bill for services that were either medically unnecessary or never provided."

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