As a teenager, Jorge Lorenzo left Cuba for Miami and eventually amassed a small fortune as a construction worker by his mid-30s — or so he told federal authorities after his arrest in December.
But in May, Lorenzo pleaded guilty along with his wife, Yahima Prado, to a conspiracy charge of stealing more than $40 million from the taxpayer-funded Medicare program.
Prosecutors say the couple’s “massive” theft accounted for South Florida’s largest fraud scheme last year against the U.S. healthcare program for the elderly and disabled.
Lorenzo, the one-time boss of a network of more than 20 home healthcare agencies and “shell” companies in Miami-Dade County, was sentenced to 15 1/2 years in prison Friday. His wife, who played a supporting role, received a more lenient term of 3 1/2 years.
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A third co-conspirator, Roberto De Jesus Alonso, was sentenced to three years.
U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas ordered the three defendants to pay back $40.3 million to Medicare. The U.S. attorney’s office said it has seized more than $2 million in assets and cash from the Lorenzo-led ring, including a suburban home, luxury cars, Rolexes and Cuban artwork.
In December, a federal magistrate judge ordered Lorenzo’s detention when prosecutor Kevin Larsen argued the 36-year-old Cuban immigrant could flee to his native country.
Then Lorenzo, his wife and his associate, Alonso, were charged in a conspiracy that involved installing “straw” owners of eight home healthcare agencies, paying kickbacks to patients, forging doctors’ prescriptions for Medicare services and laundering millions through shell companies.
Lorenzo and Prado pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the Medicare program by filing bogus claims for services that were not provided to patients in their homes between 2011 and 2015. Medicare, which pays claims fast without checking them carefully, paid the couple’s companies a windfall of $40 million. Alonso pleaded guilty to a money laundering scheme.
When federal agents arrested Lorenzo and his wife in December at their home in the 900 block of Southwest 94th Avenue, they found a safe containing $102,000 in cash, two luxury vehicles, a painting by a prominent Cuban artist valued at $25,000, more than 50 other pieces of art, and about 20 Rolex and Cartier watches.
Agents with the FBI and Health and Human Services said the painting was by the late Cuban artist René Portocarrero.
Prosecutors filed the photos of Lorenzo’s home and seized assets in federal court before his detention hearing. Lorenzo, represented by defense attorneys David Raben and Saam Zangeneh, was accused of lying about owning the home and the bounty found inside.