Miami, Cuba, and Medicare fraud

Miami, likely home of the 2012 NBA champions, is also the Medicare fraud capital of the United States.

In this article about two recent fraud convicts, the brother and nephew of columnist Carlos Alberto Montaner, it is noted that a few years ago, one fourth of Medicare’s physical and occupational therapy claims from the entire United States were coming from south Florida.

Some of the perpetrators are Cuban Americans who fled to Cuba once the feds started after them.  (Montaner père fled to Costa Rica, with bad results.)  That fact has given rise to allegations, with no evidence offered, that Medicare fraud is in fact a Castro Regime Scheme to steal U.S. government money and to discredit the Cuban American community.

The situation gets more interesting with the case of Oscar Sanchez, who has been arrested and indicted on one count of money laundering by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Sanchez, it is alleged, didn’t himself defraud Medicare but rather helped those who did by laundering their profits and sending millions to bank accounts in Cuba.

The U.S. Attorney told the Herald, “There is no allegation and we have no evidence that the Cuban government is involved in this case.” A Cuban official, not addressing this case directly, told the AP: “Foreign commercial banks that maintain accounts in Cuban banks are obliged to operate in strict compliance with international and Cuban rules and must guarantee the reliability of their transactions and the correct use of their accounts.”

Sanchez, it turns out, was quite an operator.  The only detailed information about this case is contained in a motion that prosecutors made to convince the judge to hold Sanchez in jail because he would likely flee if released on bail.  The narrative presented in the motion is incomplete and not entirely clear, but prosecutors allege that Sanchez:

· worked for and was paid commissions by a number of persons who committed Medicare fraud, laundering their money;

· a) by providing them cash in return for checks drawn on the companies involved in the fraud; or

· b) in other cases involving “individuals who wanted their cash in Cuba,” by moving their money to Cuba by sending it first to a bank in Montreal, then to accounts at Republic Bank in Trinidad, which accounts were opened at the bank’s Havana branch and “at least two of those accounts had standing instructions to the bank to wire all money immediately from the accounts to the Cuban banking system.”

At that point, prosecutors say that “the final whereabouts of the money is unknown.” I assume that they use the term “the Cuban banking system” because they have no information on accounts to which the funds were transferred.

We can also assume that this case may lead to conversations and perhaps collaboration between U.S. prosecutors and Cuban officials.  Such collaboration has occurred in cases involving alien smuggling and drug trafficking, and has helped obtain convictions in U.S. courts.  U.S. allies also collaborate with Cuban law enforcement regardless of their view of Cuba’s human rights record.  In the interest of fighting rampant Medicare fraud, it would certainly serve the U.S. national interests to seek Cuban cooperation in this case.

Of course, it’s possible that the Cuban Americans involved in Medicare fraud are really working for the Castro Regime.

It’s equally possible that they flee to Cuba because they figure they will be safe from extradition there.  That’s not entirely true because Cuba has handed over several fugitives from U.S. justice in recent years.  But it’s in our interest to fight that perception, and we can’t do it from a distance.

Posted by Phil Peters

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