Dirty Money

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Fraudsters make a life of living off of dirty money. The illegally-gained funds help to perpetuate a lifestyle of lying, stealing and cheating. (It’s hard to stop once a fraudster gets started down that crooked road.) An article published in the Miami Herald describes how a woman assumed multiple identities as various medical personnel to pull off a scam that stole $8.5 million from Medicare.

The article states that the woman posed as a doctor, a registered nurse and a nurse practitioner to carry out the scheme. (It should be noted that she has never been licensed as a medical professional. That’s pretty scary.) She opened a medical clinic with the assistance of a co-conspirator, who happened to be a former convicted cocaine trafficker. (His job was to recruit qualified Medicare patients for the scam.)

The fictitious doctor used the stolen identities of multiple physicians to write approximately 2,200 phony prescription referrals for home health services. The forged prescriptions were sold to patient recruiters for $100 each. Several home health care agencies submitted these bogus prescriptions to Medicare for payment.

The woman’s devious plot was foiled shortly after she hired a real doctor to serve as the clinic’s medical director. Once he discovered that she was not a real doctor and the clinic was a front for illegally billing Medicare, he reported his findings to federal authorities. (Good for him, but unfortunately his identity had already been stolen by the fake physician.)

The 43-year-old woman pleaded guilty to health care fraud and to stealing the identity of her medical center’s director. She was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison. (This was not her first brush with the law as she had been previously convicted and sentenced to state prison on numerous occasions.) Her 49-year old co-conspirator received an eight-year prison sentence for his illegal involvement.

The story mentions that the woman tried to gain sympathy from the judge by explaining that she had the enormous responsibility of raising her family, paying her mortgage and taking care of her mother who recently had a stroke. (Most people have similar responsibilities, but they don’t use dirty money to pay the monthly bills.) Even though these two perpetrators are being punished, unfortunately, it is the taxpayers who will take a double hit. Not only did their tax dollars get stolen through the Medicare scam, they will also foot the bill as these two serve out their time in federal prison.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”’Catch-me-if-you-can’ Fake Doctor Imprisoned 17 Years for Medicare Fraud in Miami,” written by Jay Weaver and published in the Miami Herald on February 5, 2015.

For several years, Alejandra Collazo posed as a doctor at her Hialeah medical clinic, using the stolen identities of actual physicians to write 2,200 phony prescription referrals to home healthcare agencies that paid her kickbacks for patients.

The scam cost the taxpayer-funded Medicare program $8.5 million.

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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.