By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
"I said, `Hell no. You ain't gonna do this now,'" Weinstein recalls. "`I'm going to finish this case, and if you try to stop me I'm going to blow the whistle so loud your ears will ring. I'll go to the civil service board, I'll go to the press. You're not transfering me.' Simon said, `Don't do anything, Leon! What can we do to work this out? Look, I've already put the paperwork in to transfer you. But why don't you continue working the case. Just don't make any waves.'"
Weinstein was reassigned in September 1986, but Simon allowed him to complete the Enriquez case, did not cut his salary or move him to another office, and finally reinstated him before his retirement in 1989. The strangeness of Simon's backpedaling was noted three months ago in a pension hearing before the Merit Systems Protection Board, which ruled in February that the 1986 transfer was invalid, an opinion now being contested by the HHS Office of Personnel Management. Simon did not respond to queries about Weinstein's transfer. Nor did he respond to several requests for an interview or to written questions about Weinstein's allegations of improprieties.
By autumn of 1989, the task force was disbanded and a score of IMC cases were reassigned to Weinstein's colleague, Tom Aurelio. Weinstein claims Aurelio later confided to him that he was told by Simon to abandon all the IMC cases. Aurelio, who still works in the North Dade HHS office, would not discuss the matter. "I have to go by department policy and refuse to respond to inquiries by the press," he says. "Call me up in nine months after I retire." Regardless, all remaining IMC investigations were in fact dropped.
The undercurrent of resistance Weinstein felt he was encountering echoed an earlier experience he'd had in March 1986, one month into the Enriquez case. Weinstein was talking on the telephone to Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Bonn, he says, when he happened to mention a U.S. General Accounting Office report detailing complaints about IMC made to Congress by disgruntled patients and clinic owners. According to Weinstein, Bonn had not seen the report, and asked him to supply her with a copy. Weinstein claims that Harry Kinsella, his supervisor, flew into a rage and commanded that he not turn over the report. Weinstein also says Bonn told him that Kinsella later met in Miami with U.S. Attorney Leon Kellner to request that Kellner drop all IMC cases. Laura Bonn declined to comment about Weinstein's recollections, saying through a spokesman that "it is the policy of the United States Department of Justice to not comment on or relate conversations involving defendants, defense counsel, or agents."
Kellner, now in private practice in Washington, D.C., says he has no memory of a meeting with Kinsella, but may have forgotten the event. "He could have easily sold me on the idea that this was a low priority," Kellner says, referring to the IMC fraud cases. "Medicare wasn't the type of case I was interested in. It was resources-intensive - very, very hard to do."
Harry Kinsella - who himself was suddenly transferred to Washington, D.C., during the Enriquez investigation, and later demoted from supervisor to special agent - today says he has no memory of the General Accounting Office report. Nor would Kinsella discuss another Weinstein contention - that he withheld evidence from the Justice Department during that agency's labor- racketeering investigation of Recarey. In the summer of 1986, Kinsella was the liaison between Project Minicare at HHS and a Justice Department racketeering strike force in South Florida. Justice Department officials were busy proving Recarey had bribed union representatives to sign up groups of workers as IMC medical plan recipients.
One afternoon in the Fort Lauderdale HHS office, another investigator came upon a piece of evidence that should have made unnecessary the government's efforts to prove Recarey committed bribery. The investigator, Joe Birdsong, suddenly realized that checks written by Recarey to the union were drawn on a hospital expense account and then showed up on a Medicare cost report, a transfer that amounted to theft of government funds. Birdsong's discovery engendered considerable excitement among the HHS investigators in the office, Weinstein says. All except Kinsella. "Harry says, `Oh, no,' like that's the last thing he wanted to hear," Weinstein recalls. "Kinsella was the very one who was supposed to be working with the Justice Department prosecutor to help him get Recarey. I went to the prosecutor after I retired and I said, `Did Harry ever tell you that money was Medicare money?' He said no. I asked him what would have happened if he had? He said: `We would have charged him with Medicare fraud!'"
Joe DeMaria, the U.S. Justice Department prosecutor assigned to the Recarey racketeering investigation, confirms Weinstein's account of their conversation. "If Harry Kinsella could have come in and said he could show Medicare fraud, I would have put it on the indictment, we would have considered it," says DeMaria, now in private practice in Miami. "It never happened. I have no idea why. Maybe Miguel Recarey should have been prosecuted for Medicare fraud; that wasn't my bailiwick."