Fraudbuster!

For a man trained as an accountant, Recarey moved in some strange circles. IMC employed at least a dozen people with backgrounds in foreign intelligence, according to a 1988 article in the Wall Street Journal. Recarey reportedly bragged of his long-standing business ties with South Florida mob boss Santo Trafficante, Jr., a man who once told Congress he was part of a botched CIA plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. IMC's now-defunct Miami International Hospital (now Golden Glades Regional Medical Center in North Dade) was used to treat wounded Nicaraguan contras during the Reagan administration's CIA-orchestrated war against communism in Central America, according to both medical records and the diaries of National Security Council staffer Lt. Col. Oliver North.

To Leon Weinstein, the tenuous links between Recarey and the CIA go a long way toward explaining the mysterious resistance he encountered in the final years of his HHS career. The fact that both Oliver North and HHS Inspector General Kusserow were contemporary Marine Corps officers only added to his suspicion. Weinstein rejects the notion that government health officials simply lacked resources to pursue the time-consuming IMC fraud cases and instead put a premium on prosecuting larger numbers of more manageable investigations. (In 1989 the American Medical Association called for Kusserow's resignation after a CBS 60 Minutes segment detailed the HHS inspector general's office's fevered persecution of hundreds of doctors for what appeared to be only minor infractions.)

"If you're a reporter, the best way to make a name for yourself is not to do 50 little stories, but to do one big story," Weinstein says by way of example. "The way for a lawyer to make a name for himself is not to do lots of little cases, it's to do one big case. Well, here's IMC, the biggest Medicare fraud in history. Wouldn't you think that Kusserow, as someone who definitely wanted to make a name for himself, would grab this?

"There's got to be a reason that didn't happen," Weinstein says. "Some might say Kusserow was paid off, but I can't conceive of it. He's not that kind of man. Maybe he was pressured by Jeb Bush or some of the others: `Hey, lay off this guy.' Maybe. Except that Kusserow is a tough guy. I can't conceive of him bowing down to political pressure.

"Again and again I said to myself, Why is this happening? The more I thought about it, the more I read, the more I found a connection between the CIA, North, Recarey, the contras. Is it so far-fetched to believe that Colonel North might pick up the phone and say, `Hey, Kusserow, why don't you lay off this guy Recarey? He's involved with the CIA, he's helping us with the contras. This goes right up to the top, right up to the president. The president wants the contras helped out. Would you lay off this guy?' That I see Kusserow doing. In my own mind, that's the reason."

Weinstein easily concedes that a fair dose of speculation lies at the heart of his cover-up theory. And he says he has despaired of trying to prove its veracity all by himself. Too many people, he claims, have nothing to gain by talking. "I think it's up to Congress to find out," he says. "I can't do it. Congress has got to put Harry Kinsella up on the stand and say, `Why did you go down to the U.S. Attorney's office and tell him to drop the IMC investigation?' Congress has to put Bob Simon on the stand and ask him, `Why was Leon Weinstein taken off this case? Why were all these other cases closed? Why did you bury those audit reports instead of going after these clinics?'"

One former federal agent who worked on the aborted IMC investigations says he thinks Weinstein's explanation is ridiculous. But he doesn't seem so sure. "As far as Leon's conspiracy theory, a cover-up theory, I don't know," says the agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "He's speculating the hell out of things. But on the other hand, this is South Florida. You could ask a lot of questions. For instance, why didn't the U.S. magistrate take away Recarey's passport when they let him out on bail?

Part 3

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!'"

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