Miami woman who fled to Cuba sentenced to nine years in prison for Medicare fraud

 

jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

Carmen Gonzalez fled to Cuba five years ago while she was free on bail awaiting trial on charges of playing a bit part in a big Medicare fraud scam.

On Friday, Gonzalez was sent to prison for nine years by U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno in Miami federal court — with a seven year sentence for fraud and two years for jumping bond after her initial arrest.

FBI agents arrested Gonzalez, 39, in September after five years on the lam. She was charged along with six others in an $11 million Medicare fraud scheme at an HIV-therapy clinic in Miami.

A federal jury convicted her of conspiring to bilk the taxpayer-funded Medicare program and paying kickback to patients who either did not need or receive the HIV-infusion treatments at the clinic, St. Jude Rehab Center.

Gonzalez was represented by defense attorney Joel DeFabio and prosecuted by Justice Department lawyer Nathan Dimock.

A decade ago, Gonzalez, the mother of a young son, first worked for St. Jude as a cleaning lady and then as an unregistered nurse.

St. Jude had a certain notoriety because it was part of the notorious Benitez brothers’ chain of 11 HIV-therapy clinics in Miami-Dade. All together, the brothers billed Medicare $119 million for medically unnecessary services and collected $84 million in payments.

The brothers — Carlos, Jose and Luis — fled to Cuba in 2008 after their indictment was filed under seal in Miami federal court. They are believed to be living on the island nation, though a substantial number of their ill-gotten assets have been seized in the Dominican Republic.

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