Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Home care worker found guilty for role in $7 million Medicare fraud scheme

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A federal jury found a Chicago woman guilty today for her role in a scheme to defraud Medicare of approximately $7 million between 2011 and 2017.

After a four-day trial, Angelita Newton, 42, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud.   Sentencing has been scheduled for Oct. 13, 2020 before U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall of the Northern District of Illinois, who presided over the trial.

According to evidence presented at trial, from approximately 2011 to 2017, Newton worked at Care Specialists, a home health company based in Chicago, Illinois, and owned by Ferdinand Echavia, 46, and Ma Luisa Echavia, 44, both of Chicago.  Newton was the Echavias’ employee and personal assistant.

In that role, Newton conspired with the Echavias and others to submit claims to Medicare for unnecessary home health services for unqualified patients, or for visits that did not happen as billed, the evidence showed.

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Newton created and completed visit notes and other documents purporting to reflect nursing services purportedly rendered by Ferdinand Echavia with the knowledge that he was not actually providing the services.  Newton was aware that Ferdinand Echavia was making cash payments to patients, which Newton knew to be illegal, the evidence showed.

The evidence at trial showed that between 2011 and 2017, Medicare paid Care Specialists approximately $7 million for home health care services.

Three other defendants have been charged in connection with the fraud at Care Specialists.  Ferdinand Echavia pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud on Jan. 28, 2020, and is awaiting sentencing.  Ma Luisa Echavia pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud on Jan. 29, 2020, and is awaiting sentencing.  A former nurse at Care Specialists, Reginald Onate, 31, of Aurora, Illinois, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and is awaiting sentencing.

This case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG.  Trial Attorneys Leslie S. Garthwaite and Patrick Mott of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.  Former Trial Attorney Jessica Collins of the Fraud Section previously handled the prosecution.

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The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.  Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for nearly $19 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. of the Northern District of Illinois, Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the United States Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Chicago Division Office made the announcement.

Original article on justice.gov

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