Tag Archives: Medical Clinic

The 11th Judicial Circuit Court Issues Key Ruling in Health Care Clinic Licensure Case

On March 10, 2015, the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County issued a ruling in favor of Imperial Fire & Casualty Insurance in a mandatory licensing (House Bill 119) case. The Court found that the charges submitted for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits to Imperial Fire & Casualty, to be unlawful and thus, noncompensable pursuant to Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law.

Imperial Fire & Casualty issued a policy of automobile insurance to the Insured under which the Defendant, Magic Hands Solutions Inc. sought payment. Magic Hands Solutions operated as a medical clinic and allegedly rendered medical treatment to the Insured who was injured in an automobile accident. Subsequently, Magic Hands Solutions submitted charges for payment of PIP benefits to Imperial Fire & Casualty. Magic Hands Solutions was advised that the claim submitted for PIP benefits was not payable because the clinic was not properly licensed pursuant to Section 627.736, Florida Statutes (2013).

In 2012, the Legislature required mandatory licensing for all clinics holding an exempt status, whether by issuance of Certificate of Exemption or self-determined, in order for clinics to receive reimbursement pursuant to the “PIP Statute.” Hence, a clinic must be licensed under Part X, Chapter 400 to receive reimbursement for PIP benefits, unless it qualifies for an exception listed in Section 627.736(5)(h).

The Court found that the Magic Hands Solutions being wholly owned by a license massage therapist does not qualify for any of the exceptions delineated in §627.736(5)(h)(1)-(6) and was required to obtain a Health Care Clinic license as a condition precedent to receiving reimbursement of PIP benefits.

As a result of Magic Hands Solutions’ failure to obtain a Health Care Clinic License, the Court found that the charges submitted were unlawful and thus, noncompensable pursuant to Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law and that Imperial Fire & Casualty.

Imperial Fire & Casualty Insurance Company vs. Magic Hands Solution Inc., Case No. 2014-2211 CC 24 (01) (Fla. 11th Circuit March 10, 2015).

Comments Off on The 11th Judicial Circuit Court Issues Key Ruling in Health Care Clinic Licensure Case

Filed under Fla. Stat. 627.736 (2008)

Miami Health Care Fraud Scheme Results in 14 Arrests

A $13.9 million fraud scheme involving a network of medical clinics resulted in the arrest of 14 Miami-Dade County residents on March 11, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

As readers of the FLPIPGuide.com know, our coverage of medical clinics typically relates to PIP fraud. In this case, however, the named medical clinics allegedly intended to defraud health care insurers and employer-sponsored plans.

The following individuals were charged with health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud in the case of United States v. Reyna/do Castillo, et al.:

  • Reynaldo Castillo, 46, Hialeah
  • Hendris Castillo Morales, 33, Miami
  • Lisbet Castillo, 23, Hialeah
  • Maite Garcia, 40, Hialeah
  • Osvaldo Marin Medina, 48, Hialeah
  • Alejandro Biart, 40, Miami
  • Alejandro Jesus Cura, 47, Miami
  • Dania Chavez, 43, Miami
  • Ezequiel Severo Casas, 28, Hialeah
  • Humberto Martinez Rodriguez, 43, Hialeah
  • Jose Gerardo Gonzalez, 23, Miami
  • Julio Suarez, 47, Miami
  • Nelson Ramos, 56, Miami
  • Reinaldo Cinta Gonzalez, 46, Miami
  • Rudy N. Dominguez, 25, Hialeah
  • Diulys Martinez, 39, Miami

As many as 30 medical clinics based in Miami, Hialeah, Hialeah Lakes, and Doral, Fla. were owned or controlled by Reynaldo Castillo, Hendris Castillo Morales, Lisbet Castillo Batista, and Maite Garcia, according to the indictment.

Physician names and licensing information obtained through medical staffing companies was allegedly misappropriated to conceal the actual clinic ownership. Additionally, some of the individuals charged were paid fees in exchange for the use of their names as fronts for corporate ownership, bank accounts, and check cashing privileges.

Insurance companies Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), and United Health Care (UHC) were affected by the scam. Several self-insured employers whose insurance plans were managed by the three carriers were also the target of fraud, including:

  • Miami-Dade Public Schools
  • City of Miami
  • Pepsi Co.
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club
  • Macy’s
  • Nextera Energy
  • Radioshack
  • Sodexo

False and fraudulent claims totaling $125.7 million were submitted to the insurance carriers and employer plans, of which $13.85 million was paid. Many of the claims were for treatments that were not ordered by a physician or services that were never delivered.

The indictment also alleges that Reynaldo Castillo, Lisbet Castillo Batista, and Hendris Castillo incorporated an investment company to receive proceeds from the clinics and used those proceeds to purchase real estate properties. Those properties are subject to criminal forfeiture.

In a companion case, United States v. Ernesto Castillo, Osvaldo Marin Medina, Alejandro Biart, Ernesto Castillo, 43, of Hialeah, and Danny Jacomino Bordon, 50, of Miami were charged with health care fraud for causing Amazing Medical Services, Inc., Serenity Rehabilitation Center, Inc., and World of Rehabilitation Therapy, Inc. to submit false claims to Cigna totaling approximately $5.1 million, which resulted in payments to the three companies of approximately $1.1 million.

Jose Gerardo Gonzalez, Reynaldo Castillo, Ezequiel Severo Casas, and Danny Jacomino Bordon remain at large.

Click on the link to read the news release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

Comments Off on Miami Health Care Fraud Scheme Results in 14 Arrests

Filed under Insurance Fraud

Court Order Issued in PIP Case Alleging Exorbitant Hospital Fees

On February 20, 2015, Judge James S. Moody, Jr., of the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, issued a ruling in the case Herrera, et al. v. JFK Medical Center, et al. That suit, brought in 2014 by four Florida drivers, alleges that the defendant hospitals are exhausting Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits by grossly overcharging for services—at up to 65 times what Medicare pays. The lawsuit names JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, Memorial Hospital Jacksonville, North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville, and HCA Holdings, Inc. as defendants.

The plaintiffs, injured in separate motor vehicle accidents, received emergency radiological services at the named HCA-operated defendant hospitals. The services were covered by the plaintiffs’ PIP insurance. The plaintiffs allege that they were charged an “exorbitant” rate for these services, thereby prematurely exhausting their PIP benefits and leaving them with medical expenses in excess of what they would otherwise have to pay.

Plaintiffs allege causes of action for violation of the Florida Deceptive Unfair Trade Practices Act (“FDUTPA”), breach of contract, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Plaintiffs sought to have the case certified as a class action.

At a February 17, 2015 hearing, the defendants made motions to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint and motions to strike the class allegations. Judge Moody granted the motions in part and denied them in part, as discussed below.

First, HCA argued in its motion to dismiss that, since it is the ultimate parent company of the hospitals, it has no direct liability for the hospitals’ actions. The court, however, held that plaintiffs’ had sufficiently pled a cause of action when they pled that HCA is directly involved in setting and enforcing hospital guidelines and that the hospitals acted as agents of HCA.

Second, the defendants argued that plaintiffs FDUTPA claims fail because plaintiffs cannot allege that HCA was engaged in “trade or commerce” as required by the statute. Recognizing that other courts have held that the types of allegations the plaintiffs are making support a FDUTPA claim, the court held that plaintiffs may proceed to attempt to prove their case.

Third, plaintiffs allege breach of contract based on incorporation of the PIP statute into plaintiffs’ contracts with the hospitals. Because the PIP statute requires that only “reasonable” amounts may be charged, plaintiffs allege that defendants breached the contracts by charging unreasonable rates. The court concluded that plaintiffs may incorporate the PIP statute’s reasonable requirement into the contracts and therefore proceed with the breach of contract claim.

Third, in Count III of their amended complaint, plaintiffs allege that the defendant hospitals breached their duty of good faith and fair dealing by charging them unreasonable rates for medical services. Because plaintiffs failed to allege that an express term of the contract had been breached, the court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

Finally, defendants moved to strike the class allegations because individual issues predominate. The court agreed that, given the nature of the claims and individual factual inquiries required, the individualized issues are predominant and the suit cannot proceed as a class action. As a result of that ruling, only one of the plaintiffs—Marisela Herrera—may proceed with the action. The remaining plaintiffs were dismissed without prejudiced to file separate, individual actions.

Click on the link to view the court order in Marisela Herrera et al., v. JFK Medical Center Limited Partnership, et al., Case No. 8:14-cv-2327-T-30TBM in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Comments Off on Court Order Issued in PIP Case Alleging Exorbitant Hospital Fees

Filed under Case Law, Fla. Stat. 627.736 (2012)

Orlando Clinic Operators Arrested in PIP Fraud Scheme

Dr. Lherisson Domond, a Coconut Creek physician, fronted ownership of the Unity Pain and Injury Center clinic for most of 2012 in exchange for monthly payments of $1,500, according to the Florida Department of Financial Services.

Domond admitted that he agreed to be paid for the use of him name as owner of the unlicensed medical clinic. Further investigation revealed that Nesly Loute of Naples and Pierre Alex Herisse of Orlando actually managed the clinic’s operations.

In investigating Unity Pain and Injury Center, the Division of Insurance Fraud discovered that the clinic illegally provided medical treatment and physical therapy to individuals involved in automobile accidents. The clinic then billed the treatments to various insurance companies under the PIP coverage of patient insurance policies.

The three individuals face felony charges for fraud, operating an unlicensed clinic, and grand theft, all of which carry sentences of up to 30 years.

The Division of Insurance Fraud reports that it has made 249 PIP arrests since July 1, 2014.

Click on the link to read the news announcement about the Unity Pain and Injury Center.

Comments Off on Orlando Clinic Operators Arrested in PIP Fraud Scheme

Filed under Insurance Fraud, Licensing

Nine Arrested in Miami PIP Fraud Schemes

There has been no shortage of auto insurance fraud in Miami of late as Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the arrests of nine individuals who have been charged in connection with eight separate cases of personal injury protection (PIP) fraud schemes.

According to Atwater’s announcement, the Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) uncovered seven staged vehicle accidents in which the scammers collectively filed more than $242,000 in fraudulent billings to 11 different insurance carriers. Staged accident participants were referred to at least 13 different South Florida medical clinics.

The nine were arrested for acting in one or more of these capacities:

  • The organizer or staged accident recruiter;
  • The patient broker who encouraged participants to seek post-accident medical treatment for bogus injuries;
  • The licensed medical provider who agreed to sign off on falsified medical documents in exchange for payment billed under PIP insurance benefits.

The investigation into these cases remains ongoing and additional arrests are expected, DIF said.

“While their injuries may have been fake, PIP fraud is real and it is not a victimless crime,” CFO Atwater commented. “When insurance carriers absorb such high-dollar losses to fraud, we all pay in the form of higher insurance premiums. I’m thankful to our dedicated investigative team for shutting down this fraud ring.”

Comments Off on Nine Arrested in Miami PIP Fraud Schemes

Filed under Insurance Fraud

Cuban Crime Rings behind Florida Staged Accident Fraud

Originally intended to provide refuge to those fleeing Cuba’s Castro regime, the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 has enabled a thriving Cuban criminal network to expand from South Florida throughout the country and take hold without legal recourse. A recent three-part series by the Sun Sentinel, which examines the prevalence of this illegal activity, reveals that the cost to American businesses and taxpayers exceeds $2 billion over the past 20 years.

The story found Cuban criminals often work in rings that specialize in non-violent economic crimes such as credit card fraud, cargo theft, Medicare fraud, and insurance fraud through staged auto accidents. Frequently, they make their money, move it to Cuba, and return to the U.S. when more money needs to be made.

One massive auto insurance fraud ring with more than 100 participants—most of whom were Cuban—exemplifies just how easy it is for these groups to pull off the crime and get away with it because of their special immigration status.

In this particular case, 21 clinics in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties were involved in $18 million worth of fraud. Recruits found participants to smash cars with sledgehammers and stage vehicle accidents. Participants were then sent to the identified clinics that billed injury claims to auto insurance companies for treatment of their fake maladies.

It was discovered that the accused ringleaders were Cuban immigrants who were returning to Cuba on a weekly basis. Millions of dollars stayed in Cuba, apparently used to purchase properties and support family there, as IRS agent Pamela Martin testified at a court hearing last year.

After the FBI started to bust the fraud ring and make arrests, five main organizers fled back to Cuba, evading capture.

According to Fred Burkhardt, who is a South Florida auto-insurance industry fraud investigator from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the small-scale outfits of a decade ago have evolved and become very sophisticated and organized.

“Someone is sitting back with a strategy, figuring out where the clinics will be, where the patients will come from,” he said. “There’s a structure involved. There are specific duties that people have.”

Staging auto accidents to defraud insurance companies basically started in Miami in the late 1990s, the Sun Sentinel reported. By 2007, the crime has progressed to other Florida cities like Fort Myers, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville, Burkhardt said.

Comments Off on Cuban Crime Rings behind Florida Staged Accident Fraud

Filed under Insurance Fraud

Appellate Court Rules that Two Providers Not “Prevailing Insureds”

A trial court ruling awarding attorney’s fees to two medical treatment providers was reversed by the Appellate Division of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County in an opinion filed January 9, 2015. The court concluded that the providers did not constitute “prevailing insureds” and therefore were not entitled to the statutory award of attorney’s fees.

Fritznel Leconte was allegedly injured in an automobile accident on July 22, 2006, while insured by a PIP insurance policy issued by United Automobile Insurance Co. He received treatment from two providers—A Rehab Associates and Med Plus Centers—and assigned his PIP claims to them. The cases were tried separately and consolidated on appeal.

In response to a pre-suit statutory Demand Letter, United determined it was responsible only for the cost of the pre-IME (Independent Medical Exam) treatments and offered A Rehab $595.20 and Med Plus $1,324.80. At trial, verdicts were returned in favor of the providers for the exact amounts offered earlier by United.

The providers filed motions for attorney’s fees as “prevailing insureds” pursuant to Florida Statutes section 627.428. That statute grants an insured the right to recover attorney’s fees when the insured obtains a judgment or decree against the insurer, i.e., is a “prevailing insured.” The question before the court was whether an insured is a “prevailing insured” when it obtains a judgment no better than the amount offered by the insurer pre-suit.

The court held that the “prevailing insured” referred to in the statute is “one who has obtained a judgment greater than any offer of settlement tendered by the insurer.” Put another way, “insureds who rejects settlement offers that would make them whole cannot seek attorney’s fees under section 627.428.”

In this case, the judgments received were not greater than the amount offered by the insurer prior to the suit, so the insureds do not qualify as “prevailing insureds” and are not entitled to attorney’s fees pursuant to section 627.428.

United Automobile Ins. Co. v. A Rehab Assoc. and United Automobile Ins. Co. v. Med Plus Centers, Case Nos. 12-413 AP, 13-148 AP, 12-381 AP, 13-147 AP (Fla. 11th Cir. January 9, 2015).

Click on the link to access the court ruling.

Comments Off on Appellate Court Rules that Two Providers Not “Prevailing Insureds”

Filed under Case Law, Fla. Stat. 627.736 (2008)

Separate PIP Fraud Cases Lead to Three Jacksonville Arrests

Three individuals from the Jacksonville area, who have allegedly been involved in personal injury protection (PIP) fraud schemes, have recently been arrested by the Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) in separate cases.

The first individual apprehended was Walter Juarez Lopez, who owned and operated Therapy Diagnostic Tech Medical.  According to DIF, the 42-year old helped organize staged accidents in 2011, in which participants were sent to his clinic as well as Arlington Rehabilitation Services. His role in the scheme resulted in more than $32,000 in fraudulent claims, DIF said.

Also arrested in November was Jose Burgos who organized a fake crash for insurance money in 2012.  The 40-year old, who sent participants to One Touch Therapy Center, was tied to more than $31,000 in false claims, DIF reported.

Last but not least, Edwin Edgardo Martinez-Rodriguez, 46, was also nabbed for his role as a staged accident organizer.  In 2012, he organized a fake accident that resulted in more than $16,000 in false claims made by Gate Parkway Diagnostic Center and Wellness Rehab Services, LLC, according to DIF.

Fraudulent claims were submitted to several insurance companies including Direct General, Esurance, GEICO, Infinity, Progressive, State Farm and Travelers.

Comments Off on Separate PIP Fraud Cases Lead to Three Jacksonville Arrests

Filed under Insurance Fraud

DIF Arrests Miami-Dade Staged Accident Organizer

Ismael Govea Morales was detained and arrested in Miami-Dade County for organizing two staged accidents, the Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) reported. He was booked at the county jail in Miami in November.

DIF’s investigation found that the 49-year old recruited participants for two staged accidents occurring in June and August of 2012. Participants in the scheme were referred to clinics in Miami including Beyond Care Corp, Med Life Medical Services, Union Medical Center, Cedar Valley Medical Group, Intensive Therapy and MS Medical Rehab Corp.

The clinics then billed six different insurance carriers—Geico, Kingsway Amigo, Progressive, State Farm, United Auto, and York Services—totaling more than $167,000 in fraudulent charges as a result.

In addition, 76-year old Manuel Alvarez, one of the participants in the June 2012 fake crash, was arrested in November.

This isn’t the first time Govea has been involved in a fraudulent scheme. In January 2013, DIF arrested him on charges of insurance fraud, grand theft, money laundering, organized scheme to defraud, and making false entries on books of corporation.

At that time, Govea was charged with a total of 363 counts for his role in a sophisticated insurance fraud scheme that involved a clinic in Hialeah. Unbeknownst to the true owners of this clinic, Prudential Diagnostic Center, Govea added his name as an officer to the corporation in 2011. The clinic incorporated in 2008, but later closed in 2009.

Govea used Prudential Diagnostic Center as the conduit for defrauding insurance carriers of more than $726,000 in fraudulent billings, according to DIF. He opened a mail drop to collect insurance checks, and between January and June of 2011, Govea allegedly used the corporation to submit billings to 27 different insurance carriers for MRI services that never took place, resulting in nearly $440,000 in payments.

At first, Govea cashed about $44,000 worth of checks through a bank account he opened under the corporation name, but later switched to a check cashing store in Coral Gables to cash the vast majority of the checks.

Comments Off on DIF Arrests Miami-Dade Staged Accident Organizer

Filed under Insurance Fraud

Boca Raton Medical Billing Company Members Indicted in Ohio Fraud

Seven people and a Florida medical billing company were indicted on December 17, 2014 for their roles in a multi-million dollar health care fraud conspiracy involving a controversial form of chiropractic manipulation, according to a news release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio.

Members of the fraud scheme indicted are:

  • Physicians Surgical Group (PSG) of Boca Raton, Fla.
  • Christopher Liva, 36, of Boca Raton
  • Edward Liva, 64, father of Christopher Liva, based in Boca Raton
  • Carolyn Via, 51, of Boca Raton
  • Mark Fritz, age not provided, of Coral Springs
  • Three other medical professionals from Northeast Ohio

The Livas and Via owned PSG and were also part owners of Shaker Heights Surgical Center (SHSC), located in Ohio.  Fritz was chief financial officer at PSG.

The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio alleged that, from 2007-2010, the defendants deceived various private insurance companies, bilking them out of millions of dollars on behalf of patients who underwent manipulations under anesthesia, a risky treatment that is normally reserved for those who have not responded to more conservative chiropractic treatment.  The procedure is classified as surgery by the American Medical Association, according to the indictment.

In order to defraud the insurance companies, the defendants disregarded actual diagnoses, created fake diagnoses, submitted false billing claims, and represented that the procedures were performed by medical doctors, when in fact they were performed by chiropractors.

Additionally, the indicted parties marketed SHSC and the experimental manipulation procedure to chiropractors in Ohio. Chiropractors were paid a flat fee of $4,000 for each patient they referred to SHSC, and the clinic waived patients’ co-pays and deductibles.  The clinic then typically submitted three types of claims to the insurance companies—for professional fees, facility fees, and fees for anesthesia services.

The Livas, Fritz, PSG, and the three Ohio medical professionals are charged with one count each of conspiracy, wire fraud, health care fraud, and money laundering.  The Livas and Via each face an additional count of money laundering.

Prosecutors are also seeking to seize property derived from the criminal conspiracy, including two properties in Boca Raton, money, a watch, and 4.18-karat diamond stud earrings.

Comments Off on Boca Raton Medical Billing Company Members Indicted in Ohio Fraud

Filed under Insurance Fraud