Miami is keeping its title of city with the most health care fraud. Last week Jose Luis Perez, age 34, was located and arrested in Cancun, Mexico. Mr. Perez had been living in the Miami area at the time he was indicted on health care fraud charges -- but then traveled to Mexico. The government claims that on July 2, 2009, he "fled the country after learning he had been indicted and was going to be arrested."
Mr. Perez was indicted on June 30, 2009, along with co-defendant Reinaldo Guerra, on charges of conspiracy to commit Medicare fraud, Medicare fraud, and aggravated identity theft. An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant, including Mr. Perez, is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
According to the Indictment, the fraud involved durable medical equipment (DME), which is equipment that can be used in the home on a repeated basis for a medical purpose. Where DME is prescribed or ordered by a physician, an authorized Medicare provider who supplies the equipment to a Medicare beneficiary may be eligible for reimbursement by Medicare.
The Indictment charged that Mr. Perez and Mr. Guerra owned and operated 21 corporations that purported to supply DME to Medicare beneficiaries pursuant to physicians' prescriptions or written orders, using straw or nominee owners to disguise their control over the companies. They are accused of submitting approximately $179 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare for DME that had not been prescribed or ordered by a physician nor delivered to a Medicare beneficiary.
Based on those claims, it is alleged that Medicare paid the DME companies approximately $56 million. In addition to health care fraud, both Mr. Perez and Mr. Guerra were charged with aggravated identity theft for using physicians' Medicare identification numbers without the physicians' authorization.
Mr. Guerra has already been sentenced. He was sentenced on November 19, 2009 to 14 years' imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, and to pay $35 million in restitution to the Medicare program. Mr. Guerra was denied a bond after his arrest last July because he did not have proof of a steady job in years -- yet the government prosecutors claimed he managed to pay cash for a $349,000 home in Southwest Miami-Dade, traveled to Costa Rica 10 times and acquired a fleet of luxury cars, including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus, Acura and Lamborghini.
The arrest in Mexico happened after the FBI and HHS-OIG received information that Mr. Perez had traveled to Cancun, Mexico. This information was passed on to the FBI Legal Attaché Office in Mexico City, who confirmed Mr. Perez' identity and location. Instituto Nacional de Migracion, Mexico's Immigration Service, then arrested Mr. Perez without incident. Mr. Perez was brought back to Miami and is currently being held at the Federal Detention Center in Miami pending trial.
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