Miami health executive gets stiff sentence for fraud

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 09, 2011 11:48 AM
Miami health executive gets stiff sentence for fraud

MIAMI (Reuters) - A former Miami health care executive was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her role in a $205 million healthcare fraud scheme, authorities said on Friday.

Judith Negron, the owner of American Therapeutic Corp, a chain of mental health care centers shut down after a raid on its Miami headquarters in October 2010, was convicted in August on charges that she helped mastermind what prosecutors described in court documents as "one of the largest and most brazen healthcare fraud conspiracies" in U.S. history.

Her sentencing in federal court on Thursday by U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King followed the sentencing in September of her co-defendants and co-owners. Lawrence Duran received a 50-year sentence and Marianella Valera received a 35-year sentence.

The prison sentences have been described by prosecutors as the harshest ever for defrauding Medicare, the federal insurance plan for the elderly and disabled.

Prosecutors said American Therapeutic, operating out of the southeastern city widely viewed by law enforcement officials as a central point for healthcare fraud in the United States, billed Medicare for more than $205 million in claims over eight years for mental health services that were either unnecessary or never provided to patients.

In addition to their time behind bars, Negron, Valera and Duran were ordered "jointly" or with other co-defendants to repay more than $87 million in restitution, covering the amount of fraudulent bills that Medicare actually paid out to American Therapeutic over eight years.

Before Judge King's sentencing of the American Therapeutic trio, the highest Medicare fraud sentence was 30 years. It was handed out in 2008 to a Miami physician, Ana Alvarez-Jacinto, convicted in an HIV-therapy scheme.

(Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Jackie Frank)