11 Admit Defrauding Medicare
TOM DUBOCQ Herald Staff Writer
The owner of a Miami Medicare mill and her 10 employees have admitted to cheating the government out of $3.3 million by billing for medical services that were unnecessary or never provided. A 12th defendant remains a fugitive : Cuban exile activist Huber Matos Araluce, son of a well-known former political prisoner. None of the money defrauded from Medicare has been recovered.
"These convictions should serve as a warning to all the crooked clinics that we are on a mission to expose them," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Cheryl Bell, who prosecuted the case. "Stealing from Medicare and Medicaid costs taxpayers billions of dollars a year."
The scam involved a clinic -- Florida Medical & Diagnostic Center Inc., 965 W. Flagler St. -- and five related companies that hired unlicensed doctors and paid recruiters kickbacks of up to $150 for each Medicare patient used to bill Medicare. The bogus billings were paid between October 1989 and February 1992.
Juana Mayda Perez Batista, 37, who owned the clinic with Matos, pleaded guilty Friday to a variety of fraud charges and will be sentenced March 24 by U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro- Benages. Perez Batista and the other defendants face up to five years in prison and $250,000 fines.
Also convicted with Perez:
* Dr. Vicente Mompo, 77, who admitted he ordered tests, treatments and prescriptions for patients he never examined. He also signed blank order forms so unlicensed clinic personnel could fill in patient names later.
Without his signature, Medicare never would have paid.
* Gilberto Rodriguez-Abreu, who concocted diagnoses and bogus medical charts to support billings. He does not have a Florida medical license. * Carlos Lastres, a clinic employee who headed the diagnostic center. He admitted ordering tests for patients who doctors had not examined, then falsifying medical charts to justify the exams.
* Jose Matute, president of Publimark, Inc., a company set up to pay recruiters for Medicare patients who weren't sick.
* Patient recruiters Amanda Ibarra, Martha Aguero, Nancy Foster, Concepcion Gil and Azucena Perez-Miranda, who were paid kickbacks for supplying patients to take batteries of unnecessary tests. The patients also were suspected of taking cash.
* Gladys Soberon, a clinic receptionist convicted of witness tampering. She admitted to encouraging a recruiter to lie to the FBI about the scheme.
Matos, 50, is living in Costa Rica, prosecutors said. Prior to his 1993 indictment, he was a spokesman for Cuba Independiente y Democratica, an exile group founded in 1981 by his father, former political prisoner Huber Matos Sr.
Efforts to return the younger Matos to Miami have been fruitless. Last June, the Costa Rica supreme court blocked his extradition, ruling he could not be turned over to U.S. authorities because he had obtained Costa Rican citizenship. He became a citizen in March, three months after the United States requested his extradition.