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"MapAs a lawyer representing Medicare fraud whistleblowers, I am used to seeing stories about Medicare scams in South Florida. After all, South Florida is the epicenter of Medicare fraud in the U.S. But Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald is reporting that many of these fraudsters are escaping justice. They are fleeing to other countries – with a particularly large number heading to Cuba – taking our taxpayer money with them.
Weaver published an article in the November 2nd Miami Herald, FBI tracking down Medicare fraud fugitives from South Florida. His article explained what everyone in the field of False Claims Act lawsuits knows all too well: South Florida has more Medicare fraud than anywhere else in the country. A staggering 1600 people have been charged with Medicare fraud in federal courts there — one third of all healthcare cases in the entire United States.

But Weaver also explained that many of the worst perpetrators are escaping justice by hightailing it to other countries — in particular, to Cuba – before the FBI can nab them. He gives numerous examples.

Brothers Luis and Carlos Benitez, were born in Cuba. They came to the U.S., where they stole a whopping $ 84 million from Medicare through HIV therapy fraud. The brothers took their money and scampered back to Cuba, where they are currently hiding out from U.S. federal authorities.

Juan Carrelero, also born in Cuba, stole $ 9 million by submitting fraudulent charges for HIV therapy supposedly being given to patients. He, too, is a fugitive living in Cuba.

Ramon Fonseco, who also hailed from Cuba, stole $ 30 million from Medicare through HIV therapy fraud. He fled to Venezuela.

Maricel Beatriz Hernandez grabbed $ 5.1 million from Medicare through fraudulent claims that patients were receiving therapy for HIV. A Cuban native, she fled back to her native homeland to escape prosecution.

Another Cuban native, Joan Noalles gathered a cool $ 10.6 million in a scheme involving durable medical equipment (DME) and pharmacy fraud. He is currently a fugitive from the law, although U.S. official do not know where he is hiding.

Emilio Seijo ran a traditional medical equipment fraud scheme. He netted 14.5 million, and fled back to his native Cuba, where he currently lives.

Orlin Tamayo-Quinones used an scheme involving HIV treatments to purloin $ 30 million from Medicare. Originally born in Ecuador, he, too, is hiding out in Cuba.

The FBI has had some successes. It caught Enrique Gonzalez, who had stolen $ 9.9 million through HIV therapy Medicare fraud. Gonzalez was living in Bolivia. When he tried to flee Bolivia for Cuba, federal authorities apprehended him in Peru before he could get to Cuba.

Carmen Kaeren Gonzalez stole $ 8.2 million, also for faked HIV therapy charges. She was originally born in Cuba, and fled back to the country after she was indicted here. Fortunately, authorities were able to arrest her when she came to the Fort Myers area.

Weaver’s article covers the genesis of Medicare fraud in South Florida. The earliest fraudulent schemes were relatively simple: criminals stole Social Security numbers from elderly and disabled people who were eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, and stole Medicare license numbers from physicians. The crooks then fabricated claims out of whole cloth, billing for durable medical equipment (like wheelchairs) that weren’t needed and were never supplied.

Over time, and thanks in large part to whistleblowers who were willing to report the fraud to the Government, Medicare began to wise up. Of course, as Weaver notes in another article, “Stealing Medicare blind, at a cost of billions,” the criminals developed increasingly sophisticated schemes to steal taxpayer funds from Medicare and Medicaid.

U.S. taxpayers cannot afford to continue hemorrhaging dollars to Medicare fraud in Florida or anywhere else. Let’s hope whistleblowers will come forward to stop abuse of the program.


Lee’s peers have named her a Georgia SuperLawyer every year for two decades.