South Florida can add another feather to its fraud cap: scummiest Medicare scammers in the U.S.
SoFla has long been the
anus epicenter of health care fraud (see Rick Scott and Columbia/HCA). So it's no surprise that when prosecutors announced charges today against 91 people in a massive, months-long national investigation into Medicare fraud, more than half of the accused hailed from South Florida.
What was shocking, however, was how low some of the scammers had sunk, recruiting out-of-state Medicare patients who were down on their luck or suffering from mental or drug problems and blackmailing those patients who refused to fleece the system.
Attorney General Eric Holder visited Miami for the announcement, which included FBI agents, federal prosecutors, and Health & Human Services officials. The 46 South Florida defendants range from clinic owners to a doctor, a nurse, mental health and family counselors, and patient recruiters. They are accused of stealing more than $160 million via bogus Medicare reimbursement claims.
Most of the defendants were charged in the past two weeks, but the indictment was only unsealed yesterday in time for today's press conference.
As the bunghole of the American health care industry, South Florida is no stranger to Medicare fraud accusations. But this announcement reached a new low, explained U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer:
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In a new twist to the ever-changing Medicare fraud schemes, some of the defendants went as far as to recruit vulnerable out of state Medicare patients who were down on their luck or suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. The defendants promised the patients a roof over their heads in halfway houses as long as they received community mental health services that they did not need. If the patients refused the treatments, they were threatened with eviction and thrown out on the street.
Ever wonder where Miami's homeless come from? Well, now we know.