Florida regains championship!
And speaking of Florida … the title for Biggest Medicare Fraud in U.S. History went ping-ponging across the country last month, as California briefly stole the award from long-reigning champion South Florida with an organized crime narrative fit for a James Ellroy novel.
But the upstart Golden State held the coveted place in Medicare history for nary a fortnight before South Florida again reclaimed the crown with a tale featuring luxury cars, trips to Switzerland and Medicare-code swapping parties worthy of a Carl Hiassen plot.
South Florida has, for whatever reason, long been the site of the largest busts for Medicare fraud by criminal organizations, perhaps because of the damn fine police work of Miami’s Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which as recently as July coordinated the charging of 94 people nationally in billing fraud schemes.
Then out of nowhere comes Operation Diagnosis Dollars, which resulted in charges against 73 people in an alleged $163 million fraud, plus the prosecution of a group that authorities described as an Armenian “organized crime enterprise” based in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale—the first crime outfit from part of the former Soviet Union charged with racketeering in the U.S. since 1996.
The Oct. 13 bust was immediately called “the largest Medicare fraud scheme ever perpetrated by a single criminal enterprise” by prosecutors, according to the LA Times.
Not content to sit on the sidelines, however, Miami’s strike force on Oct. 21 announced its own biggest case ever—totaling $200 million, perpetrated by four executives at what it said was the nation’s largest chain of community mental health centers, American Therapeutic Corp.
“The scope of the alleged Medicare fraud surpassed that of a vast network of Armenian gangsters and their associates charged last week operating phantom healthcare clinics to try to cheat the federal program out of $163 million,” the Miami Herald helpfully clarified in its initial story on the bust.