Federal government seeks public’s help in capturing health insurance fraud fugitives
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) wants your help in nabbing more than 170 people wanted for health insurance fraud. In February 2011, the OIG launched its first “Most Wanted Fugitives” list, which includes photos and case information for the top 10 offenders.
The OIG site also provides a form to anonymously report a fugitive’s whereabouts. However, no reward money is being offered, says Don White, an OIG spokesman at the Department of Health and Human Services.
“We have been looking for these people for quite some time, and all it takes is one phone call to put them behind bars,” White says. “We appreciate all the help we can get.”
For more information about these fugitives, visit http://oig.hhs.gov/fugitives.
Here is a look at the top fugitives and their cases:
Carlos Benitez, 49
Luis Benitez, 44
Jose Benitez, 48
The Benitez brothers submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare, bilking the government out of $110 million. The trio owned and operated medical clinics in the Miami area that were supposed to provide treatments to HIV-infected Medicare patients. The brothers paid kickbacks to their “patients,” but investigators later determined the medicine was unnecessary or never even administered. Already, nearly two dozen of the Benitez brothers’ co-conspirators have been charged in this conspiracy.
Clara Guilarte, 56
Caridad Guilarte, 54
The Guilartes owned and operated a Dearborn, Mich., medical and rehabilitation center and were able to defraud Medicare out of about $4.3 million. Along with Reynel Betancourt, the Guilartes allegedly recruited “patients” to sign forms indicating they received medical services, although none services were provided. Authorities captured Betancourt on Nov. 30, 2010, in the Dominican Republic.
Susan Bendigo, 40
Bendigo was director of nursing for a company that provided nurses for home health agencies. Authorities say that from 2004 to 2007, Bendigo sent unlicensed nurses to treat patients under Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program. Medi-Cal requires licensed nurses to work, but Bendigo billed the program for about $17 million, pocketing about $10 million for herself, authorities say.
Leonard Nwafor, 45
Nwafor, owner of a durable medical equipment company in Southern California, collected $525,000 in fraudulent claims for equipment that included motorized wheelchairs, scooters, and hospital beds. He was convicted in 2008 of conspiracy and health care fraud, but failed to show up in court for his January 2009 sentencing. In his absence, a judge in March 2010 sentenced Nwafor to nine years in prison. Nwafor remains a fugitive.
Eduardo Moreno, 42
Moreno used fake offices to operate medical equipment and HIV drug scams that reaped more than $7 million from false Medicare claims, authorities say. The FBI arrested him in 2007. After he made bail, Moreno did not appear for court hearings.
Steven Moos, 41 (captured)
Moos, formerly a general practice physician in Oregon, prescribed drugs and refilled prescriptions without examining patients or viewing their health records. He lost his medical license after he was caught refilling prescription drugs over the Internet. Even after his license was revoked, Moos continued to practice medicine and prescribe drugs, authorities say. A federal indictment charges him with ordering human growth hormones from China.
Authorities finally caught Moos in February 2010 in the United Arab Emirates, where he was arrested and found guilty of impersonating a prominent plastic surgeon and performing surgery in his villa. He was sentenced to two months in prison. U.S. authorities are working with officials in the United Arab Emirates to extradite Moos to face trial in the United States.