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Politics

South Florida Scammers Accused of Taking $25 Million from Taxpayers

November 26, 2014 - 6:00pm

South Florida, already a hot bed for identity theft, insurance and health care fraud, is home to a scheme that allegedly enriched 11 people who used public health services to scam foreign nationals.

The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Wifredo A. Ferrer, announced he is bringing charges against eight Miami-Dade residents and three Nicaraguans.

Together, theyre accused of bilking taxpayers out of more than $25 million.

According to a 36-count indictment, the defendants, including at least one physician, submitted numerous health care enrollment applications containing false residency information, ultimately for government reimbursement.

The defendants are said to have recruited non-U.S. citizens living in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The applications claimed the foreign residents as beneficiaries and stated they lived in Florida, when in fact they did not.

Law enforcement officials say the defendants paid the recruited individuals to travel to Miami, where they were treated by primary care physicians. The resulting diagnoses where then used to obtain $25,247, 413 in Medicare and Florida Medicaid program reimbursements.

Health care fraud is a devastating crime that threatens the strength and integrity of our health care system, said Ferrer, adding that Florida law enforcement officials will continue to fight health care fraud locally and across our borders.

The Florida addresses used on the applications included those belonging to friends and relatives of the foreign nationals.

Unfortunately, scams that bilk our health care system do not stop at our borders, said George L. Piro, special agent in charge, FBI Miami.

Three defendants remain at large, officials said.

Since 2007, 1,650 people have been charged with Medicare fraud resulting in $4.5 billion in false claims.

View the full federal indictment HERE.

William Patrick is a reporter for Watchdog.org. Contact him at wpatrick@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @WillPatrick77.

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