Monday, March 5, 2012

Alicia Vasquez Pleads Guilty of Illegal Kickback Conspiracy


McALLEN, Texas – The owner of a purported health care resource center has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy in relation to a scheme to solicit and receive illegal kickbacks from area health care providers, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.

Alicia Vasquez, of San Juan, Texas, was charged in a three-count indictment returned under seal Nov. 1, 2011, and unsealed Jan. 27, 2012. The indictment charged Vasquez, 51, with one count of conspiracy and two counts of soliciting and receiving kickbacks in violation of the federal anti-kickback statute. At a hearing this morning before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez, Vasquez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy for her involvement in the scheme.

According to information presented in court this morning, from September 2009 through April 2011, Vasquez solicited numerous Medicare and Medicaid patients through a “health care resource center” she operated called David’s Star Loving Vision (DSLV). Vasquez would refer the patients to a variety of health care providers in Hidalgo and Cameron Counties including durable medical equipment (DME) companies, physicians and home healthcare agencies.

Over time, Vasquez referred the patients to these health care providers in exchange for a total of at least $70,000 in payments in violation of the anti-kickback statute. In turn, the providers billed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Medicare and Medicaid programs as a result of the illegal referrals. Vasquez, and the providers to which she referred the beneficiaries, undertook a variety of measures to conceal Vasquez’s involvement with respect to the referrals. For example, one owner of a DME company paid kickbacks to Vasquez through a third-party – referred to in the indictment as “Person A.” The kickbacks were deposited into person A’s bank account, from where the money was later diverted to Vasquez.

Vasquez is scheduled for sentencing before Judge Alvarez on May 16, 2012, at 9:00 a.m. before Judge Alvarez. At that time, she will face up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy conviction. Vasquez was permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing.

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