Last year, the medical director of a Miami-Dade chain of mental health clinics and three therapists scored the equivalent of a legal tie when a federal jury deadlocked on charges accusing them of scheming to bilk Medicare out of millions of dollars.
This week, they weren’t as fortunate: A new jury convicted Dr. Roger Rousseau, 73, of Miami, and the three state-licensed therapists, Doris Crabtree, 62, of Miami, Angela Salafia, 68, of Miami Beach, and Liliana Marks, 48, of Homestead, of conspiring to commit healthcare fraud.
Rousseau, a psychiatrist, was also convicted of two related fraud offenses.
All four defendants, who worked for the now-shuttered Healthcare Solutions Network, face up to 10 years in prison at sentencings in November for their roles in the scheme to fleece more than $63 million from the taxpayer-funded Medicare program.
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Justice Department prosecutors built the case on evidence of fabricated medical records, bribed patient suppliers and falsified claims for services that were unnecessary or not provided. The 12-person federal jury in Miami returned their guilty verdicts late Monday.
The case grew out of a federal investigation of a local businessman: Armando “Manny” Gonzalez, a convicted cocaine trafficker who joined the Medicare rackets in the mid-2000s, had opened three mental health clinics in the Kendall and Cutler Bay areas. By 2008, he had moved himself and his business to North Carolina to stay one step ahead of federal agents. But they caught up with him.
In 2013, Gonzalez was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He pleaded guilty to defrauding Medicare and laundering the proceeds to support an affluent lifestyle — including nearly $1 million seized after his arrest in 2012 as well as a one-acre home, vehicles and other assets in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
In addition to Gonzalez, more than 12 other defendants pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial. They either worked for his therapy business or operated assisted-living facilities that supplied patients to his clinics.
The ALF operators took bribes from Gonzalez in exchange for supplying a steady stream of patients, many of whom suffered from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. They could not have benefited from the treatment at Healthcare Solutions Network, Justice Department prosecutors said.
Gonzalez’s clinics entertained patients with TV and movies instead of providing actual group psychotherapy sessions, while his illicit business collected $28 million in Medicare payments from 2004 to 2011.