Florida long-term care business mogul Philip Esformes faces the possibility of decades in prison after being convicted Friday in the largest healthcare fraud scheme ever charged by the U.S. Justice Department.
A 12-person jury deliberated for four days last week before agreeing that the 50-year-old entrepreneur was guilty on 20 out of 26 charges. Those include paying and receiving kickbacks, money laundering and conspiracy to commit federal program bribery. Jurors did not, however, reach a verdict on the main count — that Esformes conspired to defraud Medicare.
Prosecutors blasted Esformes following the conclusion of the eight-week trial for the $1.3 billion scheme to defraud both Medicare and Medicaid, calling him a “despicable,” “vampire” who was fueled by “unbounded greed.”
“Even beyond the vital dollars lost … Esformes exploited and victimized patients by providing inadequate medical care and poor conditions in his nursing homes,” Shimon Richmond, special agent in charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s Miami Regional Office, said in a statement. “We will continue the fight against such parasites.”
Sentencing has not been scheduled yet, but according to past reports, if convicted, Esformes could stand to face decades in prison.
The Miami Beach mogul’s fraud scheme originally occurred between 1998 and 2016. According to the Department of Justice, he led an “extensive” healthcare fraud conspiracy through his network of 16 Miami-Dade nursing and assisted living facilities. Esformes bribed doctors to admit patients and then cycled them through his facilities where they frequently received medically unnecessary services, or no care at all. Those institutions often were kept in poor condition, which Esformes hid from authorities by bribing an employee of a Florida state regulator to give him advance notice of surprise inspections.
Authorities said that Esformes used criminal proceeds from Medicare and Medicaid to make extravagant purchase that included luxury automobiles and a $360,000 watch. All told, Esformes personally collected more than $37 million from the fraud scheme.
Two co-conspirators, physician’s assistant Arnaldo Carmouze and former hospital administrator Odette Barcha, previously pleaded guilty, with sentencing for the former scheduled for April 10.
It was also revealed recently that Esformes allegedly bribed the basketball coach at the University of Pennsylvania for help getting his son admitted to the Ivy League university.