Two South Florida doctors sent to prison for 10 years in major Medicare scam

 

A pair of psychiatrists who worked for a Miami-based chain of mental health clinics must each serve 10 years in prison for conspiring to swindle millions from the taxpayer-funded Medicare program.

jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

Two South Florida doctors convicted of conspiring to defraud Medicare through the nation’s largest mental-health racket were each sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday.

A federal jury in June convicted psychiatrists Mark Willner, 56, of Weston and Alberto Ayala, 68, of Coral Gables, the medical directors for American Therapeutic Corp., for their roles in a $205 million scheme to fleece the taxpayer-funded program for the elderly and disabled.

The 12-person jury found them not guilty on other healthcare fraud offenses.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz gave the two doctors the maximum prison sentence for their cruicial roles in the criminal conspiracy, and then ordered Willner to pay $57 million and Ayala $87 million to Medicare.

Justice Department prosecutors said the doctors prescribed $120 million worth of fraudulent psychotherapy sessions at ATC’s chain of clinics in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Willner and Ayala were paid $641,000 and $536,000, respectively, for their services, according to trial evidence.

Since Miami-based ATC’s chain was shuttered two years ago, 35 defendants have been charged in the case with the majority pleading guilty. The ringleader, business owner Lawrence Duran, received a 50-year prison sentence -- the stiffest punishment ever for a Medicare fraud offender.

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