Historic Medicare fraud takedown includes local medical supplier
According to a recently unsealed indictment in McAllen’s federal court, the local women forged or caused others to forge the signatures of physicians on prescription forms and allegedly manipulated bills to receive higher reimbursements from Medicaid. Some of the women were also accused of paying kickbacks in exchange for patient information, according to the indictment.
Maria Garza, 41, owner of McAllen medical equipment company Hacienda DME, faces conspiracy, fraud, and identity theft charges along with six of her employees.
Bertha Lopez, 61, of Sullivan City served as a marketer and vendor for the company; Miriam Aguilar, 31, of Rio Grande City was a delivery driver and recruiter; Nancy Rangel, 30, of Mission, was a biller and recruiter. Veronica Cruz, 32, of Donna; Angelica Saenz, 44, of Mission; and Yolotzi Lara, 28, of Peitas, were also charged for their roles as recruiters for Hacienda DME.
According to the indictment, some of the women were forging the signatures of physicians to order unnecessary or more expensive supplies, including pull ups and diapers, regardless of whether they were needed, and instead of delivering them to Medicare recipients, they would restock them for resale in their store.
Prosecutors claim the women submitted more than $2.5 million in false claims between March 2008 and August 2013. Texas Medicaid is said to have paid more than $1.8 million to Hacienda DME, according to the indictment.
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced Wednesday this coordinated takedown is the largest in history, both in terms of the number of defendants charged and loss amount.
Led by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, 301 individuals were arrested, including 61 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving approximately $900 million in false billings in 36 federal districts.
In the Southern District of Texas, which spans from McAllen to Houston, the United States Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice Medicare Fraud Strike Force charged 22 individuals in 11 cases involving over $136 million in alleged fraud.
"The wrongdoers that we pursue in these operations seek to use public funds for private enrichment. They target real people many of them in need of significant medical care," said Lynch during a news conference.
"They promise effective cures and therapies, but they provide none. Above all, they abuse basic bonds of trust between doctor and patient; between pharmacist and doctor; between taxpayer and government and pervert them to their own ends. The Department of Justice is determined to continue working to ensure that the American people know that their health care system works for them and them alone," he added.
The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operates in nine locations and since its inception in March 2007 has charged more than 2,900 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $8.9 billion. Penney in 2006. Both served probation and community service as part of their sentences.