Miami-Dade County

Miami nursing assistant sentenced to 12 years in prison for $200 million Medicare fraud

Federal agents are shown here during a raid on an American Therapeutic Corp. building in 2010 as part of an investigation into the nation’s largest Medicare fraud scheme.
Federal agents are shown here during a raid on an American Therapeutic Corp. building in 2010 as part of an investigation into the nation’s largest Medicare fraud scheme. Getty Images

A Miami certified nursing assistant was sentenced to more than twelve years in prison Monday for his role in the nation’s biggest-ever mental health scam against Medicare, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In exchange for kickbacks, Rodolfo Santaya, 55, recruited Medicare patients who suffered from Alzheimer’s, dementia and other maladies for treatment at a mental health clinic in Homestead, prosecutors said. The clinic overbilled Medicare while failing to provide basic care to its elderly patients, according to the government’s case.

“They were using trashcans as restrooms,” federal prosecutor Nicholas Surmacz told the jury at Santaya’s trial.

Santaya, who maintained his innocence, was convicted along with another defendant, Roger Berman, a physician’s assistant, of conspiracy, fraud and other counts after a six-day jury trial in July.

The Homestead clinic was one of seven owned by Miami-based American Therapeutic Corp., which falsely billed Medicare for $200 million before federal agents raided its offices in 2010.

About 40 South Florida defendants have been sent to prison for their roles in the fraud, including ATC co-owner Lawrence Duran, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 50 years in 2011.

This article was produced in collaboration with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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