“The motion says Sanchez was ‘a capitalist for Cuban banks’ and ran a ‘cash-to-Cuba operation,’ ” he said. “I thought, ‘Wow, what is that?’ I’m very skeptical that there’s any relevant link to the Cuban economy or Cuban government.”
Two hours after issuing a public statement on the international money-laundering case saying his office would “continue to follow the evidence wherever it leads,” U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer sent another announcement: “There is no allegation and we have no evidence that the Cuban government is involved in this case.”
Gabilondo said he doubts the Cuban government would risk its recent thaw in frozen diplomatic relations by being involved with such a massive scheme. He acknowledged that it would be impossible to keep that much money secret in Cuba.
But, he added, “Awareness of the existence of large amounts of dollars doesn’t mean they know where it came from.”
In reaction to the case, Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Tuesday she has reintroduced the Medicare Fraud Enforcement and Prevention Act, so that money can not be funneled to “rogue nations.”
Sanchez’ defense attorney Peter Raben declined to comment.
“I am eager to look at the evidence and represent my client,” he said. “It’s a fascinating case. I look forward to the representing Oscar, and Oscar’s looking forward to his day in court.”
Former federal prosecutor O. Benton Curtis said it’s not hard to suspect the Cuban government has a hand in the scheme.
“In light of the current allegations, as well as what has been unearthed by law enforcement in other investigations and cases, I do not think that is a terribly unreasonable inference to draw,” Curtis said. “However, without more definitive evidence to corroborate such a belief, that is all it remains for now: an untested, unproven theory.”
When he tried Medicare fraud cases, seeing suspects and defendants flee to Cuba became “almost epidemic,” said Curtis, who is now in private practice in Washington, D.C.
“This is a remarkable case,” he said. “It, for the first time, evidences law enforcement’s ability to sift through a complex matrix of financial transactions that were intended to mask a massive fraud whose ultimate beneficiaries appear to be residents of Cuba, not Medicare recipients.”