Success stories usually begin with someone having a small role in a project that becomes big. For instance, movie stars are sometimes discovered while playing a tiny part in a commercial then become the star of a major motion picture. An article published in the Miami Herald tells about two men who became famous (in a bad way) by playing a bit part in the nation’s largest Medicare therapy scam. They assisted their employer with stealing $87 million from the government benefits program.

The story states that the overall scam was perpetrated by about 40 defendants who worked for a Miami-based mental health clinic. Altogether, the employees assisted company executives with billing Medicare for nearly $200 million in bogus therapy sessions for drug addicts, alcoholics and patients suffering from dementia.

One of the defendants was a physician’s assistant and the other, a doctor who claimed he conducted evaluations for hundreds of patients. The physician’s assistant processed patients for the doctor, who falsified records to make it appear that his patients needed the expensive therapy. (Even though the doctor was sometimes out of the country, the physician’s assistant processed the bogus claims for services that were never provided.) The physician’s assistant was sentenced to 15 years in prison, while the 65-year-old doctor still faces sentencing. Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence him to 16 ½ years in prison.

Other participants in the scam received varying sentences. The co-owner and chief executive received a prison sentence of 50 years. (This is the longest sentence that a Medicare fraud offender has ever received.) His girlfriend, co-owner and therapist, received a 35-year prison sentence for her involvement. (Prior to their convictions, the article states that the two enjoyed a Miami bay front condo and a Maserati.)

The story also mentions that the doctor’s family was not happy about the recommended lengthy prison sentence citing that he was just a bit player in the grand scheme. It also mentions that the doctor’s salary was only $90,000 a year prior to the clinic being shut down. This case just goes to show that it doesn’t matter whether a criminal plays a big or small part in a scheme targeted at defrauding the government. Fraudsters are going to pay for their illegal actions no matter how involved they were.

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