Three Miami-Dade County residents were charged with conspiracy, obstruction, money laundering and healthcare fraud for their alleged involvement in a $1 billion scheme.

Philip Esformes, 47; Odette Barcha, 49; and Arnaldo Carmouze, 56, were charged in an indictment July 22.

“This is the largest, single criminal healthcare fraud case ever brought against individuals by the Department of Justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Department of Justice.

Law360 reported that Medicare paid out at least $464 million in improper reimbursements.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of Florida spelled out the scheme as follows:

Esformes operated the Esformes Network, a group of more than 30 skilled nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. Barcha and Carmouze worked as a hospital administrator and physician’s assistant. The network allowed Esformes to find thousands of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, many who didn’t qualify for an assisted-living facility or skilled nursing home care. The government claims Esformes and his two accomplices admitted the nonqualifying beneficiaries to Esformes’ facilities, where Medicare and Medicaid were billed for unnecessary services. In addition, the three are accused of receiving kickbacks to steer the beneficiaries to medical providers, including community mental health centers and home healthcare providers. The kickbacks were hidden by being paid in cash, disguised as donations to charity or falsely labeled as lease payments.

Enformes already paid $15.4 million in 2006 to resolve fraud claims of unnecessarily admitting patients to assisted-living facilities in a Miami-area hospital. Afterward, Enformes changed his fraud scheme in an effort to prevent detection, the federal government says.

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