Ex-Cocaine Trafficker Sentenced to 14 Years For Medicare Fraud

A former drug trafficker who found a lucrative career in Medicare fraud shortly after his release from prison is getting another 14 years in the slammer. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga sentenced Armando "Mandy" Gonzalez for orchestrating a $63 million Medicare scam between 2004 and 2011. He pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiracy to commit health-care fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

As part of his plea agreement, Gonzalez was ordered to pay $28 million in restitution to the federal government, some of which will be paid by $987,00 in cash and Gonzalez's mansion in Hendersonville, North Carolina, which the feds seized in July 2012.

According to court documents, Gonzalez operated three community mental health centers in Miami-Dade County that claimed to provide partial hospitalization services to people suffering from mental illness. But federal prosecutors alleged that in many instances, the treatment was unnecessary or not even provided.

Gonzalez admitted to recruiting and admitting patients who could not benefit from partial hospitalization services. He paid patient recruiters kickbacks in exchange for referrals from patients residing at assisted living facilities who suffered from dementia and mental retardation.

Once the unqualified patients were admitted to his facilities, Gonzalez's employees would fabricate virtually every portion of the patients' mental health medical records. The fake records then supported false billings.

When he found out the feds were onto him, Gonzalez moved his operation to Hendersonville, where he routinely submitted false billing invoices for patients watching movies, attending barbecues and, more commonly, patients who were not even present at the Miami and North Carolina facilities, according to his indictment.

Gonzalez also admitted to his role in a money-laundering scheme involving Psychiatric Consulting Network Inc., a shell corporation to launder millions in health-care fraud proceeds.

In addition to Gonzalez, 14 other people involved in the scheme were busted. Ten of them have pleaded guilty. Gonzalez is among four ex-cocaine traffickers who were arrested last year for bilking Medicare out of $160 million combined.

Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.

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