MIAMI

Medicare fraud “tourism” hits Miami

 

jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

Miami's reputation as the capital of healthcare corruption is so well known that a Medicare fraud “tourist” traveled from Tampa to cash in.

On Tuesday, federal agents arrested 10 people, including one “sham” patient from the West Coast city, on charges of conspiring to use a pair of Miami-Dade home healthcare agencies to fleece millions from Medicare. The alleged scheme to bilk the taxpayer-funded program was fueled by kickbacks paid to patient recruiters and beneficiaries.

Elsa Capo, 71, is accused of traveling from Tampa to Miami to sign off on paperwork saying she received home healthcare services that were not necessary or provided. Even by Miami’s standards of Medicare fraud, her out-of-towner role in the overall scheme was unusual, authorities say.

According to an indictment, the ringleaders are Vicente Diaz, 39, and Daniel Ocampo, 35, both of Miami-Dade. Diaz owned the two home healthcare agencies, Marcialed and Sacred Health. Ocampo was an officer of Sacred Health.

The two home healthcare agencies collected $7.8 million and $4.7 million in Medicare payments, respectively, between 2011 and 2013, the indictment said.

Both Diaz and Ocampo have bond hearings Friday in Miami federal court.

The other defendants are “complicit” patients who qualify as seniors for the Medicare program. They’re accused of accepting kickbacks in exchange for allowing their Medicare ID numbers to be used for falsely billing the U.S. health insurance program, the indictment said.

In addition to Capo, the accused patients are: Santiago Sepulveda, 79, Marta Curbeco, 67, Margarita Rodriguez, 72, Francisco Maysonet, 67, Pedro Peralta, 69, Amira Galan, 79, and Ana Rosa Santana, 77. They’re all from Miami-Dade.

Of those, three are also charged with taking kickbacks to recruit patients for the alleged Medicare scheme: Curbeco, Rodriguez and Peralta.

The investigation, prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric E. Morales, was carried out by the FBI, Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

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