Miami-Dade County

Mom and daughter who hid millions in diapers plead guilty to Medicare fraud

In this 2013 file photo, a baggage handler unloads luggage from an incoming flight at Miami International Airport.
In this 2013 file photo, a baggage handler unloads luggage from an incoming flight at Miami International Airport. El Nuevo Herald File

A mother and daughter who hid $2.4 million cash in diapers and baby towels when returning to Miami from the Dominican Republic pleaded guilty to running a $20 million Medicare scam through their Miami-Dade home healthcare agencies.

Mildrey Gonzalez, 62, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and one count of healthcare fraud. Milka Alfaro, 40, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and one count of wire fraud.

They will be sentenced in May.

Gonzalez already is serving a three-year sentence handed down in February after pleading guilty to bulk cash smuggling in or out of the United States. Though both women’s luggage contained the cash on Jun. 4, the mother of the pair took the sole rap.

Prosecutors suspect the cash was part of a plan to get liquid financially and leave the country, following the path of many accused Medicare fraudsters.

Instead, the pair were indicted last June.

According to the court file, they owned seven businesses that claimed to provide home healthcare services to Medicare beneficiaries: MA Home Health Agency, Golden Home Health Care, Metro Dade Home Health, Nova Home Health Care, Homestead Home Health Care, Fintech Home Health and Inar Home Care Service. But they paid others to front as owners of all except Inar.

From 2011 until June 2016, the pair built a faux customer base by bribing and paying kickbacks to “patient recruiters” to refer Medicare beneficiaries to them, including some that didn’t qualify for home healthcare. Payoffs to doctors and other medical professionals bought prescriptions for home healthcare and patient referrals. All Medicare money paid to Gonzalez and Alfaro for those patients, about $20 million, count as fraudulent.

Alfaro admitted she told underlings to create corporations into which she and her mother could pour the Medicare money. Both violated the court system by trying to tamper with prosecution witnesses, specifically trying to convince co-conspirator Luis Luzardo to say money they gave him during the scheme was a loan instead of payment.

The asset lists on their financial affidavits to the court left off certain properties owned. Alfaro tried to claim she had $700 to her name.

The U.S. Attorney’s office held a press conference in Miami on July 22, 2016, announcing the filing of charges in connection with a $1 billion Medicare care fraud scheme.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal

  Comments