A patient recruiter for a Miami health care company was sentenced today to serve 37 months in prison for his participation in a $20 million Medicare fraud scheme. Manuel Lozano, 65, was sentenced to serve two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $1,851,000 in restitution, jointly and severally with co-conspirators.
In February 2013, Lozano pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to receive health care kickbacks. According to court documents, Lozano was a patient recruiter who worked for Serendipity Home Health, a Miami home health care agency that purported to provide home health and therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries.
According to court documents, from approximately April 2007 through March 2009, Lozano recruited patients for Serendipity, and in doing so he solicited and received kickbacks and bribes from the owners and operators of Serendipity in return for allowing the company to bill the Medicare program on behalf of the patients he recruited. These Medicare beneficiaries were billed for home health care and therapy services that were medically unnecessary and/or not provided.
From approximately January 2006 through March 2009, Serendipity submitted approximately $20 million in claims for home health services that were not medically necessary and/or not provided, and Medicare paid approximately $14 million for these fraudulent claims. As a result of Lozano’s participation in the illegal scheme, the Medicare program was fraudulently billed more than $1 million but less than $2.5 million for purported home health care services.
In a related case, on June 21, 2012, Ariel Rodriguez and Reynaldo Navarro, the owners and operators of Serendipity, were sentenced to 73 and 74 months in prison, respectively, and ordered to pay $14 million in restitution and severally with each other and their co-defendants, Melissa Rodriguez and Ysel Salado. Ariel and Melissa Rodriguez, Navarro and Salada each pleaded guilty in March 2012 to one count conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: http://www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.