Healthcare fraud trial to last 3 weeks - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Healthcare fraud trial to last 3 weeks

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Posted: Saturday, July 20, 2019 9:45 pm

Four men accused of scamming Medicare out of $150 million that funded a lavish lifestyle with premium San Antonio Spurs tickets and Louis Vuitton clothing will go to trial in early August.

U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera ruled last Tuesday that he will not grant another continuance in the case of Henry McInnis, 47, Jose Garza, 40, both of Harlingen, Rodney Mesquias, 47, of San Antonio, and Francisco Pena, 82, of Laredo.

The men, who have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, aiding and abetting, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, appeared in federal court where Olvera ruled the trial, which is estimated to last three weeks and includes nearly 260 pieces of evidence, including recordings and photos of alleged cash kickbacks, on Aug. 5.

A fifth man, San Antonian Jesus Virlar-Cadena, who reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors, entered a guilty plea on June 4 to charges of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and conspiracy to violate the Travel Act.

Those charges were levied in a separate complaint and the charges against him in the indictment will be dismissed at his sentencing, which is scheduled for Sept. 4.

Federal prosecutors accuse the men of bribing medical doctors to certify that patients qualified for services when those patients didn’t actually qualify for services and for referring patients.

The men are accused of fraudulently keeping patients in hospice care for years in order to increase Medicare revenue.

During their final pre-trial hearing, a defense attorney said their defense is that those patients did need hospice care and if anyone who didn’t need that care was referred to it, a specialist made the referral, not the defendants.

According to the federal government, the alleged fraud enabled the men to fund an opulent lifestyle that included the purchase of a Porsche, expensive jewelry and exclusive real estate.

They also face charges in the Western District of Texas, which includes San Antonio, and from the Department of Justice Health Care Fraud Unit.

McInnis, Mesquias, Pena and Garza are also embroiled in a federal civil lawsuit alleging they fired nine employees without notice and did not pay them.

The Waco-based employees filed the lawsuit on Dec. 14 alleging BRM Home Health and Merida Health Care — where the defendants were executives — violated the Wages and Fair Labor Standards Act and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which protect employees facing mass layoffs and establish minimum wage and overtime pay.

McInnis and Garza controlled and managed Merida Health Care Group, a collection of health entities owned by Mesquias, where Pena worked as the medical director for the company’s affiliates.

At the hearing, McInnis and Garza nearly received a default judgment because neither man had hired an attorney to file an answer to the complaint.

Olvera gave them a week to hire one and answer the lawsuit or face default.

The federal judge allowed the process of default against BRM Home Health and Merida Health Care to begin.

An initial conference in that case is scheduled for Sept. 11, after the criminal trial.

mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com

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