Miami-Dade County

He once owned a small world. He bought it with $66 million of Medicare fraud

Miami businessman Rafael Arias owned much of his world, including at least eight homes around Miami-Dade County, at least three cars, a meat supermarket and 19 healthcare agencies.

Now that the 52-year-old Arias also owned his role in a Medicare fraud scheme, his life is defined greatly by what he owes: time (20 years in prison) and money ($66,430,327.87 in restitution). That was the sentence handed down to Arias last week in federal court for conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and wire fraud.

All of it, except for the healthcare agencies, has been seized as partial satisfaction of that $66 million in restitution. As Arias admitted in court documents, he tried to hide his ownership of the health agencies as part of yet another massive South Florida Medicare scam.

“Arias recruited others to falsely and fraudulently represent themselves to be the owners of the agencies in order to hide Arias’ identity and ownership interest,” according to the court documents. “At Arias’ direction, these nominee owners completed and signed Medicare enrollment applications that fraudulently misrepresented the identities of the agencies’ ownership interest and managing control of the true owners and failed to disclose Arias ownership interest and managing control of the agency, contrary to Medicare’s requirements.”

From 2007 through 2015, Arias and his cronies paid patient recruiters kickbacks to refer Medicare beneficiaries to Arias-owned facilities. The facilities billed Medicare for expensive healthcare services such as physical therapy and home health. Most of the referred beneficiaries didn’t quality for home health services or the services were imaginary.

As for the aforementioned goods obtained Arias obtained while being up to no good:

▪ 9771 SW 35th St., a 2007-built, 3,753-sq. ft. two-floor house with four bedrooms, three bathrooms on a 25,484-sq. ft lot. Arias is behind on the property taxes to the tune of $17,820.17 (he missed the two years since the scheme got busted).

▪ 8390 SW 43rd Terr., a 1954-built, 2,500-sq. ft, house with two bedrooms, one bathroom on an 8,442-sq. ft. lot. Taxes owed on this one: $12,085.56.

▪ 10495 SW 32nd St., a 1956-built, 1,570-sq. ft, house with three bedrooms, one bathroom on an 8,978-sq. ft. lot. Taxes owed: $5,083.06.

▪ 10760 SW 38th St., a 1979-built, 2,485-sq. ft, house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms on a 7,500-sq. ft. lot. Taxes owed: $5,088.11.

▪ 3901 SW 112th Ave., Unit No. 24, a one-bedroom, one-bathroom, 558-sq. ft. condominium in a 1969 building. Taxes owed: $1,339.11.

▪ 2415 NW 16th St. Rd. Unit No. 103, a one-bedroom, one and a half-bathroom, 880-sq. ft. condominium in a 2006 building. Taxes owed: $5,617.64.

▪ 3111 SW 109th Ave., a 1975-built, 3,486-sq. ft, house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms on an 12,752-sq. ft. lot. Taxes owed: $4,921.58.

▪ 6345 Collins Ave., 400 sq. ft. of commercial space in a 1948 condominium building. Taxes owed: $2,450.25.

▪ 1988 Mercedes Benz S550, Vehicle Identification Number: WDDNG86X38A223522.

▪ 2010 Ford F-150, VIN: 1FTWX3AR8AEA77076.

▪ 1977 Glenhill Road Machinery Mobile Home and Trailer, VIN: FLFL2A647790181.

Others involved in the fraud got less time than Arias. Patient recruiter, medical clinic and home health agency owner Aylan Gonzalez got 15 years for conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and wire fraud. On the same charges, patient recruiter and home health agency owner Ana Gabriela Mursuli Caballero got nine years, seven months in prison. Rafael Cabrera earned five years, 11 months for money laundering.

Detective Marcos Rodriguez of the Miami-Dade Police Dept. talks to reporters about credit card fraud during a press conference at the Miami-Dade Police Dept. Headquarters in Doral.

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