Stories of financial crimes against the elderly continue to pile up. Yesterday, the United States Justice Department announced that a man from Texas was sentenced to 27 months in prison for conspiring to falsely persuade thousands of patients with incurable diseases to enroll in a hospice program they did not need. The operations manager at Merida Group, a chain of hospice and home health agencies in Texas, received his prison sentence for convincing unsuspecting patients that they had less than six months to live. How evil is that?! Most of the patients recruited did not qualify for services, as they were not near an end-stage of life.
The fraud was one of the largest hospice fraud schemes ever prosecuted. Between 2009 and 2018, Merida Group scammed the Federal Government out of $150 Million in fraudulent billing. The Group recruited and bribed physicians with illegal kickbacks under the pretense that the doctors were receiving “medical directorships.”
The owner of Merida Group was sentenced last December to 20 years in prison, while the CEO received 15 years last February. In addition to the 27 months in jail he received as a sentence, the operations manager was ordered to pay $4.7 million in restitution.
What more can be done to fight against Elder Financial Fraud?
You might think that schemes such as this one are rare, but they’re not. The Health Care Fraud Strike Force has prosecuted more than 4,200 defendants who fraudulently billed Medicare programs $19 billion since the Strike Force started in 2007. The inter-agency team focuses on wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, as well as Title 42, Title 26, and Title 21 offenses. Though not all the schemes involve the elderly, a majority of them probably do. Whether it’s nursing homes, hospice facilities, rehabilitation hospitals, or home care providers, our nation’s vulnerable elderly represent a sizeable financial target. Given that 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 each day, it’s fair to say that crimes against the elderly are likely to continue increasing. Unfortunately elder financial fraud is a growing problem in America today.
Let us hope that this case and others like it serve as a warning to criminals who seek to prey on the elderly. The FBI, the Office of Inspector General, the Justice Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are on the lookout for fraud, and they’re getting increasingly better at finding it.
Attorney Wendy York of York Law Firm specializes in prosecuting elder financial fraud, nursing home abuse, elder abuse and wrongful death cases in California. If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance please contact Wendy York today!