Friday, January 25, 2013

Four Sentenced to Prison in Florida Community Mental Health Center Case


The owners of three Miami-area assisted living facilities and an affiliated psychologist were sentenced to prison today in connection with a health care fraud scheme, involving now-defunct Miami-area health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN), in which Medicare was billed for mental health treatments that were unnecessary or not provided.

The sentences were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent-in-Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami office.

U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga sentenced Serena Joslin, 32, of Looneyville, W.Va., to 63 months in prison, following her previous guilty plea to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Raymond Rivero, 55, Daniel Martinez, 46, and Ivon Perez, 50, all of Miami, were each sentenced to 28 months in prison. All three had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the anti-kickback statute.

According to court documents, HCSN operated community mental health centers both in Miami and North Carolina, including partial hospitalization programs (PHP) – a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. HCSN obtained Medicare beneficiaries to attend HCSN for purported PHP treatment that was unnecessary and, in many instances, not provided.

In Miami, HCSN obtained beneficiaries by paying kickbacks to owners and operators of assisted living facilities (ALF) or by otherwise recruiting them from the facilities and from nursing homes. Rivero, Martinez and Perez admitted during their guilty pleas to referring Medicare beneficiaries to HCSN in exchange for cash bribes. Rivero, former owner of Miami-based God Is First ALF; Martinez, former owner of Homestead, Fla.-based Mi Renacer ALF; and Perez, former owner of Homestead-based Kayleen and Denis Care Corp., are no longer permitted to operate such facilities as a condition of their guilty pleas.

According to court documents, ALF residents referred to HCSN by Rivero, Martinez and Perez were not qualified to be placed in PHP and were only selected because they had Medicare or state of Florida Medicaid benefits. In some cases, ALF patients suffered from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or mental retardation, or were otherwise unable to benefit from mental health services.

According to court documents, Joslin, a licensed psychologist, was hired by HCSN in North Carolina in April of 2010 as a clinical coordinator and later promoted to clinical director. In those roles, she conspired with other HCSN employees to fabricate medical documents to substantiate alleged PHP treatment that was medically unnecessary and, in many instances, not even provided to the beneficiaries. Joslin admitted that many of the HCSN patients were unqualified for the PHP program because they suffered from conditions such as mental retardation and dementia, and that she directed therapists to fabricate medical records to support HCSN’s fraudulent billing to the Medicare program. Joslin was also required to surrender her North Carolina license to provide mental health treatment as part of her plea agreement.

According to court documents, from 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Florida Medicaid program approximately $63 million for purported mental health services.

In addition to the prison terms, Judge Altonaga sentenced Joslin, Rivero, Martinez and Perez each to serve three years of supervised release, and ordered them to pay $4,464,728; $90,896; $76,358; and $89,245 in restitution, respectively.

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