President Trump in late December commuted the sentence of Philip Esformes, the former skilled nursing facility owner who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in a case that the federal government called a record and valued at over $1 billion.
“While in prison, Mr. Esformes, who is 52, has been devoted to prayer and repentance and is in declining health,” the White House said in the Dec. 22 announcement.
The commutation for Esformes leaves intact other aspects of his sentence, including supervised release and restitution. He previously had been ordered to pay $44 million to the Medicare program.
Esformes was sentenced in September 2019 to 20 years in prison for a Medicare fraud scheme that he ran through his network of nursing homes. In April of that year, a jury found him guilty on 20 charges for bribery, money laundering and paying and receiving kickbacks in connection to the $1.3 billion scheme that occurred between 1998 and 2016. Esformes bribed doctors to admit patients and then cycled them through his nursing and assisted living facilities, where they often received medically unnecessary services, or no care at all, according to the Department of Justice.
Federal prosecutors termed the case “the largest healthcare fraud scheme ever charged by the Department of Justice.”
Judge Robert N. Scola Jr., who sentenced Esformes last year, said he “violated the trust of Medicare and Medicaid in epic proportions.”
Esformes was first charged in 2016. Several of his healthcare associates pleaded guilty to related Medicare fraud charges and some ultimately testified against him.
The case spun off its share of mini-scandals. An employee of Florida’s public healthcare agency was charged with tipping off Esformes to complaints and upcoming surveys, and an NBA coach admitted to helping Esformes buy his son into college.