With December now here, the holiday season is officially upon us. Unfortunately, for a few health care fraudsters, the only gifts they will be receiving this year are prison sentences.
Angelita Newton has received a prison term of 56 months.
This past Monday, the 43 year-old Chicago-based woman was handed down her sentence. It was punishment for her participation in a conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud. As reported by the United States Department of Justice, Newton has also been ordered to pay $6.3 million in restitution.
The DoJ reveals that court documents, presented at trial, showed that Newton submitted fraudulent bills to Medicare while working for Care Specialists. The home health care company was first owned by Ferdinand Echavia and later his wife, Ma Luisa Echavia. Between 2011 and 2017, Care Specialists billed Medicare at least $6.3 million. Meanwhile, 90% of the patients that the company billed for weren’t even homebound.
As a result, these patients did not qualify for the types of care that Care Specialists billed for. In addition, numerous patients received cash bribes to receive home health visits. Some of these visits were actually performed in the visiting nurse’s car. “Newton facilitated the conspiracy by falsifying patient visit records which were used to support claims billed to Medicare and was convicted by a federal jury on Feb. 14, 2020,” the DoJ reports.
Three other co-conspirators of the scheme have already been sentenced. In October, Ferdinand Echavia was sentenced to 84 months’ confinement and three years’ supervised release. In November, Ma Luisa Echavia was sentenced to 60 months’ confinement and three years’ supervised release. Reginald Onate, a third participant, was sentenced to a term of three years’ probation. He pleaded guilty and cooperated with the government throughout the investigation.
Nancy Almaguer and Christopher Felix Montoya were each given 18-month prison terms.
They were also sentenced for their roles in health care fraud schemes, as reported by the Western District of Texas branch of the United States Department of Justice. 47 year-old Montoya was a licensed physician’s assistant and owner of TPC Family Care and Medical Clinics. There are locations in both San Antonio and Laredo. 42 year-old Almaguer was the Chief Operating Officer for both clinics. Between September 2018 and June 2019, the pair agreed to refer lab testing requests to specific laboratories.
“The labs billed insurance programs, including Medicare and TRICARE, and paid Almaguer and Montoya a percentage of their receipts in return for the referrals,” details the DoJ, “The kickback schemes resulted in over $500,000 in billings to public and private insurance companies. In July and September of 2021, Montoya and Almaguer, respectively, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and to pay and receive health care kickbacks.”
This incident isn’t Montoya’s first run-in with the law. In July of this year, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to receive health care kickbacks. In that case, Montoya admitted that he received kickbacks to write prescriptions for compounded medication from a California-based pharmacy that had high TRICARE reimbursements. This scheme took place for five months beginning in February 2015. TRICARE was billed $8,832,268.73 and Montoya was paid out $6,690,598.77.
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