Her boss accepted a guilty plea and was sentenced for his crimes.
Last week, Wondera Eason, 51, of Miami came to the realization that she will suffer the same fate.
Armando Gonzalez the owner of health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN) was doing so well in Florida that he expanded his operations to a third facility in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
The only problem was that his method of collecting most of his company’s revenues from Medicare and Florida Medicaid programs was performed illegally. He also followed the same practices in his North Carolina facility.
In an April plea agreement, in front of U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga, Gonzalez agreed to accept guilty charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. His sentence for his guilty plea was to serve 14 years in prison. He was also ordered to pay over $28 million in restitution for monies collected through the fraud. The government’s attempt to recover as much money as possible forced Gonzalez to sell his property valued at several million dollars as well as several high-end automobiles that were registered to him. His savings account of slightly less than 1 million dollars was also seized by the feds. Upon completion of his prison term Gonzalez will also have to submit to three years of supervised liberty.
On Monday, Ms. Eason, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in what has been labeled her central role in the more than $63 million of fraudulent claims that were submitted and consequently paid from Medicare and Florida’s Medicaid Department. Upon completion of her prison term, she was also sentenced to serve three years of supervised release. The amount she was ordered to pay in restitution was just less than 15 million. U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga also sentenced Eason.
The sentence was announced on July 8 in collaboration with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida; the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami Office.
Health Care Solutions Network Inc.’s Website was taken down in early May and the company is no longer operating. But when they were, Eason’s title was “director of medical records at HCSN’s PHP” (partial hospitalization program).
A PHP is a type of arduous treatment for persons that suffer from severe mental illness and substance abuse. The patient, in most cases resides at home, but travels to the treatment center as often as daily, during a seven day week. Partial hospitalization concentrates on the total treatment of the individual, and its intent is to avert or lessen the amount of time the patient needs to spend their actual time hospitalized.
Evidence at trial showed that Eason, a certified medical records technician, oversaw the fraudulent billing practices for supposed PHP treatment. Her oversight included the forgery, alteration, and fabrication of a vast amount of documents that supported the fraudulent claims
A statement from the Justice Department cited that the therapy given to the patients at HCSN was basically bogus. It regularly consisted of no more than the patients playing bingo, watching Disney movies, or participating in barbecues.
Eason is not the final collaborator who has been or will be facing penalties attributed to this fraud. Just today, the Department of Justice released a statement naming Roger Rousseau, 71, another Miami resident with two counts of health care fraud and a separate charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
Additionally, six therapists have been charged in the same indictment with the latter charge. Ruben Busquets, 49, Doris Crabtree, 61, Angela Salafia, 65, Alina Fonts, 47, Liliana Marks, 46, and Blanca Ruiz, 59, all Miami residents.
Busquets, Marks, Salafia and Crabtree were all charged with two counts of making false statements related to the scheme, and Fonts was charged with two counts of health care fraud.
Additionally, many other South Floridians are facing charges stemming from similar cases.
In one example, Odalys Fernandez, Yumidia Naranjo, Kelvin Soto, Servando Raya, Jose Guerra, and Yanuris Lima have been charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud. In this particular analogous case the two registered nurses and four recruiters have been charged for supposedly providing services, such as skilled nursing and physical therapy, to homebound beneficiaries. In fact, it is charged, the services were either medically unnecessary or weren’t provided at all. The allegations go on to state that they falsified medical paperwork to make it seem that they had provided theses services. The four recruiters are alleged to have compensated Medicare recipients in the effort that they would attend as patients at Ideal Home Health. Overall, the six health care workers are charged with submitting to Medicare in excess of $40 million in false billing for that company.
The list goes on and on.
In cases such as these, the swindled monetary quantities are staggering. According to a FBI press release, made available last year shows that a total of 59 persons from South Florida alone have been charged in various schemes defrauding Medicare for more than $137 million. The press release also goes on to demonstrate that 107 more individuals in seven other cities were charged involving over $450 million in bogus billing.
To read the latest Department of Justice press release, in regard to the case against Ms. Eason, click here.
As described in this article, the consequences of a conviction for Medicare Fraud can be extremely harsh and often include long-term incarceration and costly restitution. It is critical that if an individual is charged with Medicare Fraud in the tri-county area (Dade, Broward & Palm Beach counties), to immediately contact an experienced attorney, who practices in these (Medicare Fraud) types of cases and has full familiarity in this field of law to appropriately handle the case and achieve the best possible outcome.
Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. He practices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, among other counties. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.
Mr. Cohen’s practice has recently expanded and he is now a partner in the prestigious law firm of McLaughlin & Stern, LLP. Through this partnership, Mr. Cohen can now lead your defense in the New York Metropolitan area in addition to the Broward, Dade, or Palm Beach County areas as well as all other jurisdictions throughout the state of Florida
Mr. Cohen is also listed in the 2013 edition of “Best Lawyers in America“.