A federal jury this week convicted two doctors and two assistants of bilking Medicare for millions of dollars by setting up a bogus HIV clinic in Miami, the State Attorney's office tells Riptide, the latest conviction in a racket that's quickly become the Magic City's seamiest new claim to crooked fame.
As detailed by Jay Weaver in an excellent Miami Herald series, South Florida is in the midst of a massive HIV fraud epidemic centered on an outdated procedure called "infusion treatment." Medicare officials say that Florida doctors last year submitted claims for $2.2 billion for such treatments -- 22 times more than the combined claims of every other practitioner in the U.S, in large part because very few doctors rely on the old-fashioned infusions now that oral medication is much more effective.
$5.3 million of those claims came from the not-so-good doctors Keith Russel and David Rothman. Russell, 65, and Rothman, 66, set up a clinic called Medcore Group LLC, which a former manager testified at trial was a bogus shell set-up just to make fake HIV treatment claims.
The doctors would pay fake "patients" a $200-per-visit kickback to pretend to be HIV-infected. They also had a side deal with a medical supply company to buy fake invoices falsely showing the purchase of the outdated "infusion treatment" drugs. Lab assistants would also manipulate patients' blood samples to make it appear they truly had HIV.
In addition to the doctors, the jury also found assistants Eda Marietta Milanes, 43, and Jorge Luis Pacheco, 50, guilty of fraud. Seven other co-conspirators previously plead guilty to the charges.
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Sentences are pending for all four.