Floridians face charges in pandemic health fraud
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The charges are part of a nationwide crackdown on health-care fraud.

Four Florida residents have been charged by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of a nationwide crackdown on health-care fraud that authorities say exploited the COVID-19 pandemic.

Authorities said they charged 11 people and added charges for three other defendants in six states. Defendants include Palm Beach County residents Micheal Stein and Leonel Palatnik, who are accused of using telehealth waivers during the pandemic as part of a $73 million conspiracy in which Medicare beneficiaries got referred to a laboratory for unnecessary tests, according to the Department of Justice.

Juan Nava Ruiz and Eric Frank of Coral Springs were charged in an alleged $9.3 million kickback scheme.

Christopher Licata, who was previously charged in a separate indictment, ran a clinical laboratory based in Boca Raton. He is accused by federal prosecutors of offering and paying kickbacks to patient brokers, including Ruiz and Frank, in exchange for referring Medicare beneficiaries to his lab for unneeded testing.

“It’s clear fraudsters see the COVID-19 pandemic as a money-making opportunity — creating fraudulent schemes to victimize beneficiaries and steal from federal health-care programs,” Gary Cantrell, deputy inspector general for investigations at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

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Republished with permission from News Service of Florida

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