Hialeah

These 10 people assisted in a million-dollar Medicare fraud. Now they’re paying for it

Ten owners of Miami-Dade assisted-living facilities were sentenced last week for their role in a Medicare fraud scheme by the owner of Hialeah’s Florida Pharmacy. Most received a year and a day in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Each ALF owner sentenced by U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke assisted pharmacy owner Maria Serrano in a million-dollar scam that used patients as pawns.

In court documents, Serrano admitted to paying kickbacks to the ALF owners for sending Medicare or Medicaid receiving residents to Florida Pharmacy for prescriptions and durable medical equipment. The ALF owners also would return to Serrano any unused prescription drugs already paid for by Medicare or Medicaid. Serrano would resell those drugs and submit false claims to Medicare and Medicaid.

This streamed $1,446,551 into Florida Pharmacy’s corporate account, from which Serrano wrote checks to herself. Once cashed, those checks became the kickbacks to the ALF owners.

Serrano’s original prison sentence, 2 1/2 years for conspiracy to commit theft of government money and property, has been shrunk to a year and a day. The restitution order of $1,213,206 remains, however.

Here are the partners who pleaded guilty to one count of receipt of kickbacks in connection with a federal healthcare benefit program:

▪ Miami Lakes’ Alicia Almeida, 56, owned Home My Family and Alelise ALF in Hialeah. Serrano’s kickback: about $150 per month from January 2012 through August 2015. Almeida’s residents referred to Florida Pharmacy: 11. The ripoff: Serrano’s $6,500 to Almeida brought her $12,900 in benefits. Almeida’s sentence: eight months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release with $6,150 restitution..

▪ Miami Lakes’ Norma Casanova, 67, owned Casanova ALFs, Casanova ALF, Casanova ALF #2, Casanova ALF #3, Casanova ALF #4 in Hialeah. Serrano’s kickback: about $675 per month. Casanova’s residents referred to Florida Pharmacy: 27. The ripoff: Serrano’s $37,715 to Casanova brought her $72,900 in benefits. Casanova’s sentence: a year and a day in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release with $37,125 restitution. And the Department of Health hit her with an Emergency Suspension Order of her license.

▪ Miami’s Yeny De Erbiti, 51, owned Paradise Adult Center and Golden Age in Hialeah. Serrano’s kickback: about $360 per month for four years, $180 per month for two years, nine months. De Erbiti’s residents referred to Florida Pharmacy: 12 for four years, six for two years, nine months. The ripoff: Serrano’s $22,500 to De Erbiti brought her $45,000 in benefits. De Erbiti’s sentence: a year and a day in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release with $22,500 restitution.

▪ Miami’s Marlene Marrero, 60, owned Senior’s Palace in Hialeah. Serrano’s kickback: $1,000 most months over a six-year period. Marrero’s residents referred to Florida Pharmacy: 34. The ripoff: Serrano’s $64,000 to Marrero brought her $128,000 in benefits. Marrero’s sentence: a year and a day in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release with $64,000 restitution.

▪ Miramar’s Blanca Orozco, 69, owned Soby Group Homes in Miami Gardens’ through a management company. Serrano’s kickback: $840 per month from January 2010 through June 2015. Orozco’s residents referred to Florida Pharmacy: 21. The ripoff: Serrano’s $46,200 to Orozco brought her $92,400 in benefits. Perez’s sentence: credit for time served and three years of supervised release with $46,200 restitution.

▪ Miami Gardens’ Dianelys Perez, 34, owned PM Adult Home Care in Miami Gardens. Serrano’s kickback: $240 per month from January 2013 through July 2015. Perez’s residents referred to Florida Pharmacy: six. The ripoff: Serrano’s $7,200 to Perez brought her $14,400 in benefits. Perez’s sentence: eight months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release with $7,200 restitution.

▪ Hialeah’s Jorge Rodriguez, 57, owner of Sunny Home Care in Hialeah Gardens and Julia Home Care in Hialeah. Serrano’s kickback: about $180 month from January 2010 through June 2015. Rodriguez’s residents referred to Florida Pharmacy: six. The ripoff: Serrano’s $11,700 to Rodriguez brought her $35,100 in benefits. Rodriguez’s sentence: a year and a day in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release and $11,700 restitution.

▪ Miami’s Rene Vega, 57, owned Vega’s ALF and Ailin Living Facility in Hialeah. Serrano’s kickback: $250 per month from January 2010 to July 2015 for residents from Ailin and $180 per month for residents from Vega’s ALF. Vega’s residents referred to Florida Pharmacy: eight from Ailin, number unstated from Vegas’ ALF. The ripoff: Serrano’s $28,380 to Vega brought her $56,760 in benefits. Vega’s sentence: a year and a day in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release and $28,380 restitution.

▪ Hialeah’s Osniel Vera, 47, owner of La Reina ALF in Hialeah Gardens. Serrano’s kickback: about $320 month from January 2013 to August 2015. Vera’s residents referred to Florida Pharmacy: eight. The ripoff: Serrano’s $9,920 to Vera brought her $19,840 in benefits. Vera’s sentence: a year and a day in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release and $9,920 restitution.

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

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