Assisted Living Facility operators, recruiters plead guilty in major Medicare fraud case in South Florida

Nov 21, 2011

The following article was published in the Palm Beach Post on November 21, 2011:

ALF operators, recruiters plead guilty in major Medicare fraud case in South Florida

By Jay Weaver

Operators of South Florida assisted-living facilities and halfway houses charged in one of the nation’s biggest Medicare fraud cases are rushing to plead guilty rather than face risky trials and long prison sentences.

Six defendants are now looking at shorter federal sentences because of their plea agreements.

And a seventh defendant, Joseph B. Williams, 41, who ran an assisted-living facility in Pompano Beach, plans to plead guilty next week to defrauding the taxpayer-funded Medicare program, court records show.

Those seven are among 10 residential operators and recruiters charged in September with supplying patients to Miami-based American Therapeutic Corp., whose owners pleaded guilty earlier this year. Lawrence Duran and Marianella Valera, are serving 50-year and 35-year prison sentences for running a racket to rip off $200 million from Medicare for purported therapy at their chain of seven mental health clinics in South Florida and Orlando.

Among their patient suppliers: Ramchand Ramrup, who ran an assisted-living facility in Palm Beach County with a recent history of state violations.

Ramrup, 35, manager of the Boynton Beach Assisted-Living Facility, pleaded guilty last week to Medicare fraud charges, including accepting kickbacks up to $40 a day for each patient who attended an American Therapeutic clinic, according to his plea agreement.

American Therapeutic, which generated $873,000 in Medicare bills based on Ramrup’s supply of patients, paid him in checks made out to his bogus mental health clinic, Florida Behavioral Specialists, court records show.

Another defendant, Isabel Roque, 55, also pleaded guilty last week to Medicare fraud charges. She worked as a patient recruiter for American Therapeutic, which submitted more than $3.8 million in false claims for counseling based on her supply of patients.

Altogether, Medicare paid American Therapeutic $83 million over the past decade for group-therapy sessions that could not have helped people with drug and alcohol addictions, Justice Department lawyers say.

Patients with drug addictions received treatment for mental illnesses they didn’t have, such as bipolar disorder. In many other instances, no treatment was provided at all.

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