Article from the Miami Herald:
Suspended from the Medicaid and Medicare programs for over-prescribing anti-psychotic drugs, a Miami psychiatrist continued undeterred for years to defraud agencies, including the Social Security Administration and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — until he cost taxpayers more than $50 million in losses, federal prosecutors said Friday during a sentencing hearing for the physician, Fernando Mendez-Villamil.
For his crimes, Mendez-Villamil, who pleaded guilty in May to federal charges of healthcare and immigration fraud and filing false claims, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno to 12 years and seven months in federal prison, three years of probation and ordered to repay $50.6 million to the four government agencies.
“I know what I did was wrong, was dishonest,” Mendez-Villamil, 49, said in court prior to receiving his sentence. “That’s not the way I was raised... I apologize for my behavior. I feel guilty. I’m sorry for the damage I have done.”
Also sentenced Friday in federal court was Arnaldo Oscar Jimenez, 57, of Hialeah, who pleaded guilty to his role as a conspirator in the elaborate racket led by Mendez-Villamil, prosecutors said. Jimenez, who has been diagnosed with mental illness, was sentenced to six months in prison, three years probation and ordered to repay nearly $300,000 to the government.
Two other conspirators in the scheme — Maritza Exposito, 57, and Yomara Vila, 45, of Miami — pleaded guilty earlier this year to fraud charges. Exposito was sentenced to four years in prison, three years probation and ordered to repay $33 million to the government. Vila was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison, three years probation and ordered to pay $502,000 restitution to the government.
Simmons argued that Mendez-Villamil had not only defrauded the government, abused the public trust and masterminded the scheme. He also had flooded Miami’s streets with anti-psychotic drugs that the psychiatrist prescribed to patients but instructed them not to consume.
The prescriptions instead were written and filled on a regular basis to support Mendez-Villamil’s false diagnoses of mental illness and other disabilities. The paperwork was then submitted by his clients to qualify for Social Security disability benefits and to exempt them from English and civics testing requirements for becoming naturalized citizens.
Social Security disability qualifies beneficiaries for a monthly stipend and for certain public programs, including Medicaid and Medicare, housing assistance and food stamps.