Former Florida health official sentenced for leaking 'surprise' inspection info for cash

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A former employee of Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration was sentenced Friday to 57 months in prison for accepting bribes in exchange for providing confidential information about healthcare facilities that received Medicare and Medicaid funds.

Bertha Blanco, 66, of Miami was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro of the Southern District of Florida. The judge also ordered Blanco to pay $441,000 in restitution and to forfeit $100,000, the gross proceeds traced to Blanco's crime.

According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Blanco had access to inspection dates through her job in her agency's Division of Health Quality Assurance, which  licenses and regulates skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities and home health agencies.

As part of her guilty plea on Oct. 13, the 30-year employee admitted to accepting cash bribes between at  least 2007 and June 2015 from Miami-area owners. In exchange, she turned over  scheduled-but-unannounced surveyor visits and previously undisclosed patient complaints.

Several individuals who purchased information from Blanco are awaiting a March trial, while others pleaded guilty to related charges of conspiracy to defraud, money laundering and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance earlier this year.