Straw Owner of Clinic Sentenced in $28 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

Roberto Fernandez Gonzalez, a Florida man who federal prosecutors say served as the “straw owner” of a physical therapy clinic, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for participating in a Medicare fraud scheme, according to a Department of Justice release.

Fernandez was also ordered to forfeit $446,738 and pay the same amount in restitution. He pleaded guilty in June of 2013 to conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Prosecutors say Fernandez and his co-conspirators used four physical therapy clinics, including Rehab Dynamics in Venice, FL, to submit a total of $28.3 million in fraudulent reimbursement claims to Medicare. Medicare paid roughly $14.4 million on those claims.

Fernandez’s co-conspirators obtained and controlled Rehab Dynamics, then engaged in a sham sale of the clinic to Fernandez. With no background in health care and no money to buy the business, Fernandez was strictly a front man.

The co-conspirators paid Fernandez $20,000 to operate as the straw owner from January 2008 through March 2008. During that period, Rehab Dynamics submitted $1.6 million in fraudulent Medicare claims, of which Medicare paid $446,738, the amount Fernandez was ordered to pay.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,700 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 billion, according to a Department of Justice report.

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