Two owners of a fraudulent Detroit-area medical clinic, Martin and Joaquin Tasis, and a man who helped them launder the proceeds of the fraud, Leoncio Alayon, were convicted on Friday by a federal jury in Detroit for their roles in a $9.1 million Medicare fraud scheme, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS) said.
Martin Tasis and Joaquin Tasis were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay health care kickbacks and three counts of health care fraud. Martin Tasis was also convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of money laundering, and found not guilty on one money laundering count. Alayon was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and two counts of money laundering.
According to evidence presented during the one-week trial, Martin and Joaquin Tasis were owners of Dearborn Rehabilitation and Medical Center (DMRC), a fraudulent HIV-infusion therapy clinic located in Dearborn, Mich. The Tasis brothers oversaw the payment of kickbacks to patients whose Medicare information was then used by DMRC to fraudulently bill Medicare for treatments they never received. Evidence showed that DMRC, an outpatient clinic that purported to specialize in infusion and injection therapy, was established for the sole purpose of defrauding Medicare.
Between November 2005 and March 2007, DMRC billed approximately $9.1 million in claims to Medicare for injection therapy services that were never provided and were not medically necessary. Medicare paid approximately $6 million of those claims. The Tasis brothers used Alayon and a bogus “research” company to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds of the fraud.
Evidence presented at trial showed that the Tasis brothers and their co-conspirators helped relocate the highly lucrative infusion therapy fraud scheme from South Florida to Michigan after increased law enforcement scrutiny in South Florida. Evidence at trial showed that Medicare beneficiaries were not referred to DMRC by their primary care physicians, or for any other legitimate medical purpose, but rather were recruited to come to the clinic through the payment of cash kickbacks. DMRC then billed Medicare for expensive medications, purportedly given to treat HIV and Hepatitis-C, which were never administered. For example, evidence at trial showed that DMRC billed $9.1 million to Medicare, but purchased only $36,000 in medication and medical supplies.
Once Medicare started paying the co-conspirators, Martin Tasis enlisted a family friend, Leoncio Alayon, to help him launder the proceeds of the fraud through a shell corporation in Florida called Infinity Research Corp. Evidence at trial showed that Infinity Research Corp. had no employees, did no research and was based at Alayon’s residence. Alayon, after taking a commission, distributed the laundered proceeds to Martin Tasis, Joaquin Tasis and their co-conspirators.
Including Friday's guilty verdicts, 12 individuals involved with DMRC have been convicted for their roles in the DMRC scheme. Defendants Clara Guilarte and Caridad Guilarte are currently awaiting trial on charges related to their alleged roles at DMRC. An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
A sentencing date for the Tasis brothers and Alayon has not yet been scheduled by the court. Each count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud and money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy to commit money laundering count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, and the conspiracy to pay health care kickbacks carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Friday's verdicts were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara L. McQuade; Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the HHS Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Gejaa T. Gobena of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Philip Ross, with assistance from Fraud Section Trial Attorney Catherine Dick. The FBI and HHS-OIG conducted the investigation.
The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,000 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.3 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.