A Miami-area pharmacy owner pleaded guilty today for his role in the submission of more than $1.8 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Shimon R. Richmond of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office made the announcement.
Evelio Fernandez Penaranda, 47, of Miami, Florida, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Chris M. McAliley of the Southern District of Florida to one count of health care fraud. Sentencing has been scheduled for Oct. 8, 2015.
Penaranda owned Naranja Pharmacy Inc. In connection with his guilty plea, Penaranda admitted that, between May 2013 and March 2014, Naranja Pharmacy submitted fraudulent claims to Medicare for prescription drugs that were not prescribed by physicians, not medically necessary and not provided to Medicare beneficiaries. According to admissions made in connection with Penaranda’s guilty plea, Naranja Pharmacy submitted these false claims by obtaining and using the unique identifying information of Medicare beneficiaries and doctors without their consent.
Penaranda admitted that he controlled Naranja Pharmacy’s bank accounts, and that he transferred the payments received from Medicare to himself and his accomplices. According to admissions made in connection with Penaranda’s plea, during the course of the scheme, Naranja Pharmacy submitted to Medicare over $1.8 million in false claims for prescription drugs, and Medicare paid 100 percent of the claims.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Nicholas E. Surmacz of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged over 2,300 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for over $7 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.