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Qui Tam: Whistleblower Law Blog
$9 Medicare Fraud Scam lands Patient Recruiter 77 Month Prison Term
By LaBovick Law
Fleeing to the Dominican Republic did not prove to be a fool-proof plan of escape for Reynel Betancourt. Betancourt, once an employee of Dearborn Medical Rehabilitation Center in Michigan, was sentenced to 77 months in prison for a scheme that defrauded Medicare of about $9 million.
Betancourt must pay approximately $6 million in restitution for his crimes against Medicare. As a rehabilitation center employee, Betancourt is said to have paid patients to sign fraudulent paperwork stating that they had received injections and other treatments that they did not actually receive. After receiving payment from Medicare, Betancourt laundered the money through phony corporations created for this express purpose.
After being captured in Miami and agreeing to a trial there instead of Michigan, Betancourt was charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He eventually plead guilty to the charges and was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida on June 7, 2011.
Betancourt was charged in conjunction with Clara and Caridad Guilarte, two sisters who owned the Dearborn Medical Rehabilitation Center and colluded with Betancourt in the scam. The sisters were captured in Colombia in March 2011 and are still awaiting trial. However, considering the outcome of the Betancourt case, it appears the sisters are likely looking at prison time as a result of the conspiracy charges that are pending against them.
Betancourt admitted that the scheme occurred throughout 2006 and 2007. This is not the first case of Medicare fraud that has been successfully prosecuted in the United States since the Medicare Fraud Strike Force was founded in March of 2007. The strike force was created specifically to combat crimes such as those committed by Betancourt and the Guilarte sisters.
To date the strike force has charged in excess of 1,000 defendants for fraudulently billing Medicare. Combined, the 1,000 defendants have defrauded the Medicare program of some $2.3 billion. As the strike force garners continued success, it seems likely that Medicare will be losing less of its funds to fraud.
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