Looking Back at 2019’s Largest Healthcare Fraud Case Ever Prosecuted: Surprise! No Surprise, Florida Wins!
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
For years, Florida has topped the lists with the highest rates of Medicare and Medicaid fraud and abuse. But even by the standards of Florida’s rampant healthcare fraud, this 2019 case stands out for its sheer size, making Florida, once again, the leader in fakes and frauds. Often joked and written about by Florida novelists such as Carl Hiassin and Tim Dorsey, this case serves to highlight why the “Debtor’s Haven” state often excels in cases of healthcare fraud.
In April 2019, after decades of alleged schemes, illegal kickbacks and money laundering in connection with fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid, Phillip Esformes was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was also ordered to pay $44.2 million in money forfeitures and restitution, and forfeiture of his ownership interests in several skilled nursing homes.
A federal district judge sentenced the South Florida health care facility owner after he was found guilty in the largest health care fraud scheme ever charged by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ).
A Case of “Epic” Fraud.
The nursing home mogul was accused of paying bribes and receiving kickbacks in a massive $1 billion Medicare fraud case touted by federal prosecutors as the largest in the nation. During an eight-week jury trial, prosecutors argued that Esformes himself made $38 million from Medicare and Medicaid payments between 2010 and 2016. Additionally, his South Florida network received more than $450 million through bribes and though services that weren’t medically necessary or which were never provided, according to the prosecution’s case.
To learn more about this case, click here to read one of my prior blogs.
Convicted, But Not of Healthcare Fraud.
The shocker, in this case, is that the federal jury convicted Esformes on 20 counts of conspiracy to defraud the taxpayer-funded Medicare program. The lack of a conviction for healthcare fraud itself was puzzling. Many of his alleged co-conspirators had already pled guilty to health care fraud and some had even testified against him at trial. To learn more, click here to read one of my prior blogs on another individual involved in the case.
Despite being billed as the largest healthcare fraud case prosecuted in U.S. history, it is also a stark reminder to prosecutors of how tricky it can be to secure a conviction on any particular charge.
To read the DOJ’s press release about this case in full, click here.
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Weaver, Jay. “Miami healthcare exec Esformes sentenced to 20 years in biggest Medicare fraud case.” Miami Herald. (September 12, 2019). Web.
Hale, Nathan. “The Biggest Stories In Florida Legal News Of 2019.” Law360. (December 20, 2019). Web.
Jackson, David. “Nursing home mogul Philip Esformes sentenced to 20 years for $1.3 billion Medicaid fraud.” Chicago Tribune. (September 13, 2019). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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