FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 7, 2016
Owner of Florida Home Health Agency Convicted in Multimillion-Dollar Health Care Fraud Scheme
The owner of a Tampa, Florida, home health agency was convicted by a federal jury for her participation in a multimillion-dollar health care fraud and money laundering scheme.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Shimon R. Richmond of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office and Special Agent in Charge Paul Wysopal of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office made the announcement.
Pilar Garcia Lorenzo (Garcia), 38, of Tampa, the owner of Gold Care Home Health Services Inc. (Gold Care), was convicted late yesterday of one count each of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering following a jury trial before U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell of the Middle District of Florida. Sentencing has been scheduled for Jan. 5, 2017.
According to evidence presented at trial, in late summer 2014 Gold Care submitted millions of dollars’ worth of false and fraudulent claims to Medicare. The claims were for home health services that had never been provided and had not been legitimately prescribed by a physician. As a result of those false and fraudulent claims, Medicare reimbursed Gold Care approximately $2.5 million. Garcia used a “straw” or nominee owner in an effort to execute and conceal the fraudulent scheme, the evidence showed. Approximately $2 million of the fraud proceeds her company received were laundered in cash transactions through fictitious shell companies located in Hialeah, Florida.
HHS-OIG and FBI investigated the case, which was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Florida. This case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Christopher J. Hunter and Trial Attorney Angela Adams of the Fraud Section.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged over 2,900 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for over $10 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
TAMPA, Fla. - As attorney general Loretta Lynch announces a "national health-care fraud take-down,” five-people from the Tampa Bay area are now charged for their alleged involvement in Medicare scams.
Across the country, 243 people are charged with bilking the system for $712 million in false medical claims and bills, including five from here from the Tampa Bay area.
Federal agents say two of the targets of this crackdown were operating a home healthcare business that they say never treated patients, but collected millions of your tax dollars.
“It's an office space that doesn't really do any business,” said Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General Special Agent Ryan Lynch, describing Gold Care Home Healthcare, which operated for three years in a West Busch Blvd. office building.
In an indictment unsealed Thursday, federal prosecutors say the business owners stole senior citizens' identities and used them to bill Medicare nearly $2.5 Million for home healthcare services that were never needed or provided.
“These fraudsters are stealing the identities of physician providers as well as patients,” said Lynch.
“Something seemed odd, and it was,” said Tas Poulos, who was the landlord for Gold Care Home Healthcare.
He rented office space to business partners Maury Perez of Miami and Pilar Garcia Lorenzo of Tampa.
“He just disappeared, and the rent stopped coming in,” said Poulos, who said the business suddenly shut its doors when the Feds started investigating.
The indictment says both partners used the company's bank accounts as their personal ATMs, withdrawing tens-of-thousands of dollars at a time.
Less than 10 years ago, Pilar Garcia Lorenzo filed for bankruptcy, saying she earned less than $10,000 per year.
But she recently moved into a home in West Tampa, where neighbors say she's been spending plenty.
“I knew something wasn't right,” said neighbor Gizelle Abella.
“The whole time they've been there, it's been improvements, improvements, improvements,” said Doris Perez, who lives two doors down from Garcia Lorenzo.
Real estate records show she purchased the home in 2011, the same year Gold Care Home Healthcare was formed.
By 2013, Garcia Lorenzo paid off the entire mortgage and soon began significant renovations and improvements to the home.
“The fountain, the new fence, painting, all kinds of stuff,” said Perez.
In the back, she added a hot tub, a covered porch and an outdoor kitchen.
We tried to talk to Garcia Lorenzo, but nobody answered her door Thursday.
When we told neighbors about the indictment, they were less than thrilled about all those new improvements. “For people like that to steal what other people really need is not right,” said Abella.
About 900 law enforcement officers nationwide were involved in the latest crackdown.
The FBI says Miami led the nation in healthcare fraud indictments. Officials there charged 73 defendants with more than $260 Million in fraudulent billing.