Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Your hard earned Tax Money at Illegals Hands.

R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Jonathan I. Solomon, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Office, Christopher B. Dennis, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and Bill McCollum, Attorney General of the State of Florida, announced today that Miguel Almanza, formerly of Hialeah, FL, pled guilty in connection with a $56.7 million Medicare fraud scheme.

According to the government’s factual proffer, defendant Miguel Almanza operated and controlled thirteen durable medical equipment ("DME") companies, and three medical clinics located in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough Counties. Using these thirteen companies, Almanza and his co-conspirators submitted nearly $57 million of false claims to Medicare for medical equipment, prescription medications, and outpatient medical services.

Almanza and his partners concealed their control of these DME companies and medical clinics by recruiting "nominee" or "straw owners," who were typically paid a percentage of the fraud proceeds to sign the necessary corporate records and Medicare applications. Notably, Almanza often recruited family members from his hometown of Moron, Cuba, to serve as the nominee owners of his DME companies.

To execute the scheme, Almanza purchased the identities of various Medicare beneficiaries in Miami-Dade County, including their driver's licenses, Medicare cards, and other identification documents. Almanza would then use the patients' Medicare numbers to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare for a wide variety of high-priced medical equipment, including nebulizers, oxygen concentrators, powered air mattresses, and wheelchairs. During the early years of the conspiracy, Almanza and his partners paid monthly cash kickbacks to these "professional patients." The kickbacks were paid so that the patients would not report the false claims to Medicare. Over time, the scheme changed because Almanza and his partners found it cumbersome to pay kickbacks to dozens of patients. Consequently, Almanza and his partners began to purchase stolen patient identities from patient recruiters and billing companies.

Once Medicare paid the false claims, Almanza and his partners implemented complex schemes to launder the fraud proceeds and conceal their ultimate destination. In one version of the scheme, Almanza and his partners would distribute pre-signed corporate checks, often for amounts just under $10,000, to a broad network of so-called "check cashers." The "check cashers" would cash the checks at local banks throughout Miami-Dade County, often visiting numerous bank branches within one day so as to avoid raising red flags. The "check cashers" would keep a commission, typically about 10%, and give the remaining proceeds to Almanza and his co-conspirators.

Under a second laundering method, Almanza and his partners recruited nominee owners to open various sham corporations, including construction companies and investment firms. The Medicare fraud proceeds were deposited into the bank accounts of the sham corporations, and then later distributed to Almanza and his partners. Almanza used the fraud proceeds to purchase a home, luxury cars, and to finance other lavish personal expenditures. Almanza also used the funds for gambling at various South Florida casinos, where he often spent more than $10,000 per night.

Almanza faces a maximum term of ten years’ imprisonment for the Medicare conspiracy, and five years’ imprisonment for making false claims upon the United States .

Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the Office of the Attorney General of Florida, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ryan Stumphauzer

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