Crime

Miami mental health director’s Medicare conviction thrown out

An imprisoned woman who worked for a Miami-based mental health clinic at the center of a massive Medicare racket will likely be freed after a federal appeals court Monday threw out her conspiracy conviction.

Vanja Abreu, PhD, former program director of American Therapeutic Corp. in Miami, was convicted with others in 2012 of defrauding the taxpayer-funded federal program by submitting false claims for psychological treatment that patients either didn’t need or receive.

Abreu was sentenced to nine years in prison by U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz. But a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta tossed out Abreu’s jury conviction, concluding that Seitz should have dismissed the healthcare fraud charges against her for lack of evidence presented by the Justice Department at trial.

“I am so happy for Vanja,” said David O. Markus, a Miami attorney who worked on the appeal with his wife, attorney Mona Markus. “She was so deserving of this decision. She is a special person who can now move on with her life.”

But at the same time, the appeals panel upheld the conspiracy convictions of two psychiatrists, Mark Willner of Weston and Alberto Ayala of Coral Gables, the medical directors of American Therapeutic, for their roles in the $205 million scheme to fleece the healthcare program for the elderly and disabled.

The jurors found the doctors as well as Abreu not guilty on other fraud offenses.

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