Starting in their 20s, a Miami-Dade couple built what would turn out to be one of the largest Medicare fraud schemes in the country.
Mabel and Abner Diaz, owners of All-Med Billing Corp., submitted a staggering $420 million in false Medicare claims on behalf of 85 medical equipment companies in South Florida. They collected a 5 percent commission on $148.5 million paid to those businesses by the government's healthcare program between 1998 and 2004.
The Diazes, of Miami Lakes, are among 20 defendants who have pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud charges as part of a vast conspiracy. Prosecutors dubbed the couple's billing business ''All-Fraud'' because they say none of their Medicare claims were legitimate.
The Diazes, now 37 and 36 respectively, pleaded guilty in federal court earlier this summer and face up to 20 years in prison at their sentencings on Aug. 22. They must turn over between $2 million and $4 million worth of real estate, jewelry and cash as part of their plea agreements.
According to court records, the couple filed bogus bills on behalf of medical equipment companies whose owners purchased lists of elderly patients to charge Medicare for artificial limbs, air mattresses and oxygen concentrators, among other supplies. The owners also obtained physicians' personal ID numbers to fill out phony prescriptions to authorize the claims.
''In fact, the equipment had not been provided to the Medicare beneficiaries as stated in the claims, nor had the physicians ordered or prescribed it as stated in the claims,'' according to the couple's plea agreements.