The owner and operator of Nestor’s Health Services, Inc. (Nestor HH), a now-defunct Miami home health care agency, pleaded guilty today in connection with a $6.5 million health care fraud scheme.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Steinbach of the FBI’s Miami Field Office, and Acting Special Agent in Charge Brian Martens of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami office made the announcement.
Cruz Sonia Collado, 64, of Homestead, Florida, pleaded guiltybefore U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to offer and pay health care kickbacks and to defraud the United States, and to one count of offering and paying health care kickbacks.
Collado was an owner and operator of Nestor HH, a Miami home health care agency that purported to provide home health and physical therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries.
According to court documents, Collado and her co-conspirators operated Nestor HH for the purpose of billing Medicare for, among other things, expensive physical therapy and home health care services that were not medically necessary and/or were not provided.
As the owner and operator of Nestor HH, Collado paid kickbacks and bribes to patient recruiters, in return for those recruiters providing patients to Nestor HH for home health care and therapy services that were not medically necessary, and in many instances, were not provided. Collado would then fraudulently bill the Medicare program for home health care services on behalf of these recruited patients, which Collado knew was in violation of federal criminal laws.
From approximately March 2009 through at least January 2014, Nestor HH submitted more than $6.5 million in claims for home health services, and fraudulently obtained more than $6.1 million before the fraud was exposed.
The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Anne P. McNamara and A. Brendan Stewart of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 1,900 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 billion.
In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, has removed over 17,000 providers from the Medicare program since 2011.