COVID Feature: No One Else to Blame

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Cropped shot of a medical professional filling out paperwork

Today’s fraudster has no one to blame but himself if he is convicted of fraud. Carlos Belone, 37, of Coconut Creek, Florida is charged with wire and healthcare fraud along with making false statements to a financial institution. Belone, who owns R&S Pharmacy, allegedly billed Medicare for $5.6 million in false claims. (That’s a lot of moolah.)

Belone is accused of filing fraudulent reimbursement claims for orthotic braces that were not provided to beneficiaries or were not medically necessary. Patients disclosed to investigators that they did not need the braces and had not given the pharmacy permission to use their Medicare numbers. (I’m sure prosecutors will take that very important information into consideration.)  

In addition to filing fraudulent reimbursement claims, Belone is also accused of falsely submitting loan applications through the Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program. Over $650 billion in SBA loans were approved by Congress to help alleviate the financial strain put on small businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic. (No doubt, a prime opportunity for someone with no scruples to siphon free money from the government. Just sayin’.) The two-year loans, which can be forgiven if the majority is used toward payroll expenses and operational costs, are meant to encourage companies to retain their employees during these difficult times. (It looks like Belone’s goal could have been to retain his own income and further his alleged Medicare scheme.)  

R&S Pharmacy’s loan applications were filed citing they would be used for payroll expenses, rent, and utilities. A complaint against Belone claims he submitted fake tax documents and fabricated false profit and loss statements. (Does he have to include the millions of dollars he most likely owes the government on his next profit and loss statement?) 

The alleged fake documents allowed Belone to be granted over $22,000 in PPP loans. About $12,000 of the provided loans were redirected to Belone’s personal accounts. The rest was supposedly used to further his illegal activities. None of the loan money was used for legitimate business costs. (This doesn’t seem like the best way to run a successful business.)  

It’s important to note that Belone is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. If the Florida-based pharmacy owner is convicted of fraud, it is anticipated that he will be sentenced to time behind bars and will be ordered to pay restitution.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “South Florida man accused of bilking Medicare, SBA loan program for coronavirus victims,” published by Miami Herald on July 10, 2020.

A South Florida man has been charged with bilking the Medicare system and also using his pharmacy to obtain federal loans for small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, authorities said.

Carlos Belone, 37, of Coconut Creek was arrested Friday and had his first appearance in Fort Lauderdale federal court on charges of wire and healthcare fraud along with making false statements to a financial institution. Belone is expected to be granted a $150,000 bond and will be arraigned on July 24. Neither he nor his federal public defender could be reached for comment.

 

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.