In the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster, such as Hurricane Irma, we see different sides of our community, neighbors, and friends emerge once the storm has passed. Many people come out to support affected areas by collecting goods, offering free or discounted services, or donating money to disaster-relief charities. Others come out after the disaster looking for ways to fraud a system and take advantage of ways to make extra money from vulnerable victims or government recovery efforts.
Miami is an epicenter of fraud related to government-run healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Each year, we see medical facility and pharmacy owners, doctors, and even hospital systems wrapped up in fraudulent billing or referral practices. Just this summer, there have been two major fraud-related crackdowns that have affected a wide network of assisted-living facilities here in Miami. These stories show the intricacies and details of how serious this issue is here in South Florida.
Health care fraud crackdowns initiated to catch those who defraud within the health care industry are common, but a couple of the most recent crackdowns have targeted one segment of the industry in particular that some may argue Florida desperately needs to be clean and honest. The drug and addiction treatment industry exists to support recovering drug and alcohol addicts who come to the facilities ideally to seek treatment and rid themselves of a dangerous addiction in order to live a healthier life. However, through evidence collected during one local and one national crackdown, a dark picture of the operation of these facilities has emerged.
In an odd case of fraud usually reserved for the silver screen, $3.6 million was stolen from a Miami Beach City Hall bank account over six months. The city named a couple of suspects that they believe may have been involved in the scandal; however, it is inconclusive as to who syphoned the money from the account. Though two longstanding employees resigned just after the discovery, they were not deemed suspects in the situation.
Cases of fraud are always unnerving as it usually includes an individual accruing large sums of money at the expense of other individuals. In a recent case of housing fraud, a developer by the name of Lloyd Boggio was charged with multimillion dollar fraud in Miami that impacted low-income families. Rather than face a jury of his peers, Boggio pled guilty in his case.
Bitcoin, a form of virtual currency, was recently placed under scrutiny in a case of money laundering in South Florida. The man being accused, was a web designer named Michell Espinoza, who had transmitted $1,500 worth of this virtual "money." Espinoza sold the coins to undercover detectives who mentioned wanting to use them to purchase stolen credit card numbers. Following these circumstances, Espinoza was then charged with illegal money laundering.
Fraud charges in Miami are not uncommon, but it is unusual when someone attempts to smuggle millions of dollars in from another country in their suitcase at Miami International Airport. That is exactly what happened on June 4 when two women traveling from the Dominican Republic were found to have been carrying a large sum of cash in their luggage.
Attorneys for the defendants in a Miami Medicare fraud case are seeking to have charges dismissed against their clients after evidence implicating federal prosecutors have come to light.
According the Miami Herald, a recent raid on a poplar flea market has resulted in 22 people being charged in food stamp fraud. If found guilty for taking what amounts to $13.1 million in government issued food assistance, the arrests would be the largest food stamp fraud case in the country to date.
The Supreme Court is hearing a case on a defendant's rights to seized assets that may set new precedent on the subject. The case centers on Sila Luis, a Miami woman who was indicted in 2012 for Medicare fraud. The allegations against Luis claim that she and two co-defendants used bribes and false claims to defraud Medicare of $50 million dollars.