A federal judge has imposed a 50-year prison sentence on a Florida executive found guilty of creating a $205 million Medicare fraud scheme that targeted patients with dementia.
It’s the longest Medicare Fraud Strike Force sentence ever given, according to the Department of Justice, and will likely mean that Lawrence Duran, 49, will spend the rest of his life in prison. U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King in the Southern District of Florida also ordered Duran and his co-defendants to pay $87 million in restitution.
“For years, Mr. Duran stole millions of taxpayer dollars by defrauding Medicare and preying upon vulnerable citizens suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and substance abuse,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.
Duran and girlfriend Marinella Valera were the owners of mental health provider American Therapeutic Corporation, which operated purported partial hospitalization programs in seven locations throughout Florida. They also used a related company, American Sleep Institute (ASI), to submit fraudulent Medicare claims. Once Medicare paid ATC and ASI for the fraudulently billed services, Duran, Valera and others transferred millions of dollars to another company they owned called Medlink. Checks and transfers were converted into cash, some of which was used to pay kickbacks to recruiters who brought in patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s or addictions.
According to court documents, Duran, Valera and others cashed checks at different bank branches and locations to evade reporting, the DOJ said. In all, ATC garnered $87 million in Medicare payments after submitting $205 million in false claims. The scheme ran from 2002 until 2010.
The Department of Justice has indicted a total 34 people involved with the company, including physicians, therapists and nurses, on various charges of fraud, kickbacks and money laundering. The investigation began in 2007.