Lazaro Delgado has a resumé not all that uncommon among Miami’s vast pool of criminals: He started with drug dealing, tried to have an informant killed, dabbled in mortgage fraud, then topped it all off with a multimillion-dollar Medicare scam.
And on Wednesday, Delgado couldn’t even get his apology right in federal court, drawing the wrath of a judge who sentenced the Cuban native to the maximum of 10 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga said she was disturbed by the 46-year-old man’s “repeated frauds,” especially his fleecing of $1.8 million from the taxpayer-funded Medicare program for seniors.
“I am very troubled by the defendant’s clear lack of remorse,” the judge said, after Delgado apologized but said he believed he was supposed to get only four years.
In July, Delgado pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit healthcare and wire fraud. Under federal sentencing guidelines, he was looking at seven to nine years in prison — but Altonaga went further with her punishment, lamenting that he couldn’t be deported to Cuba after he completes his term.
Delgado’s troubles began in 1997 when he was charged as a “financial backer” in a drug-trafficking ring that traded guns for cocaine, according to federal court records. His bail was revoked before trial the following year because a judge found that he orchestrated the attempted murder of a confidential informant who had gone back to Cuba.
A co-defendant in the drug case testified that Delgado said that he was going to pay $50,000 to someone in Cuba to kill the informant, according to prosecutors. The informant was violently assaulted, but did not die and returned to the United States.
“He can shake his head and say it didn’t happen ... but [a judge] found it was credible enough to revoke his bond,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Bernstein, who highlighted Delgado’s criminal past because it affected his sentencing on his current fraud convictions.
Delgado’s lawyer, Stephen Rosen, disagreed, saying that “there were no findings he did what he did.”
“The government’s argument is a little stale,” he added.
After his conviction in the drug case, Delgado served a nine-year sentence and left prison broke.
But that didn’t stop him in 2007 from duping Countrywide into giving him a $494,000 loan on his Miami home, after he falsely claimed earning a monthly income of $13,760 as behavioral director of Medical and Psychiatric Health Group.
By 2010, Delgado found a novel way to make fast money in Miami’s Medicare’s rackets.
Without putting his name on any corporate records, Delgado acquired two home healthcare agencies and installed “straws” as supposed owners to avoid detection by authorities.
Rather than hire nurses to serve actual patients, Delgado stole the ID numbers of physicians and patients enrolled in the Medicare network to submit phony claims, according to his plea agreement.
His two Medicare-licensed businesses, Loyal Home Health and Loving Nursing, billed $4.1 million in purported services and collected $1.8 million in profits from 2010-11, the plea agreement said.
One straw owner was caught and prosecuted for healthcare fraud, then began cooperating with the U.S. attorney’s office against Delgado and his partners.
On Wednesday, the judge found that Delgado was the “mastermind” of the group’s Medicare scheme. But Delgado challenged the judge’s assessment of his role. “I plead guilty to what I was guilty of,” he said, “but not to being the boss and all that.”