Four Tampa clinics targeted in Medicare fraud sweep
TAMPA - A national investigation into health care fraud has discovered four bogus health care clinics in Tampa that stole more than $2.5 million by billing Medicare for varicose vein procedures that were never performed, authorities say. Investigators on Tuesday announced the indictment of four Miami people in connection with the Tampa clinics, as well as two other people for Medicare fraud-related crimes alleged to have occurred in the Tampa area. The Tampa clinics all shared an address on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The arrests were announced as part of what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder described as a “coordinated nationwide take down” that involved the arrests of 89 defendants in eight cities. Holder said the suspects filed a total of $223 million in fraudulent Medicare claims. According to the indictment, the defendants in the varicose vein case established the four supposed clinics at one address — 2137 W. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The clinics were named Palmetto General Healthcare Inc., United Healthcare Center Inc., New Imagining Center Inc. and Lord Physical Rehabilitation Center.All four clinics purported to operate at the same time and billed Medicare for the same procedures for the same patients, according to the indictment. The defendants — Jose Fresco, 50, Alfredo Barcelo Rodriguez, 23, Juan Gonzalez Castro, 39, and Dixan Esteban Barcelo-Castro, 34 — have each been charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud. They are accused of billing Medicare for surgical procedures used to treat patients with high blood pressure by collapsing veins in the legs. Officials say they did not perform the procedures. Also arrested were Rafael Roche, 42, and Alain Remy, 35, who were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. According to their indictment, Roche and Remy operated business entities known as IRE Diagnostic Center, Inc., Ariguanabo Investment Group, Inc., Ibiza Future Planning, Inc., and A&R Medical Services of South Florida, Inc. Authorities say defendants in another fraud case deposited $1.8 million in fraudulently obtained proceeds into bank accounts in the names of IRE and Ariguanabo and disbursed the money to Ibiza Future Planning, A&R Medical Services. Officials said they also arrested 25 defendants in Miami, including two nurses, a paramedic and a radiographer. They are charged with participating in various fraud schemes involving a total of $44 million in false billings for home health care, mental health services, occupational and physical therapy, medical equipment and HIV infusion. Officials said one Miami defendant used the stolen money to buy luxury vehicles, including two Lamborghinis, a Ferrari and a Bentley. The national sweep was the sixth of its kind since 2010, officials said. In that time, authorities have arrested nearly 600 people on accusations of fraudulently billing Medicare for $2 billion. “In all of the charged fraud schemes, profit was the driving force,” said Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team, or HEAT, a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services.