Thursday, June 21, 2012

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.


Anonymous said...

This case has to be investigated carefully by US prosecutors.

If the Cuban regime in the eighties was willing to collaborate with narcotraffickers in order to earn dollars and harm the US, it is credible that it at present be promoting a massive Medicare fraud for the same reasons.

On the other hand this could be the product of individual Cuban emigrant initiative successfully carried out by some pioneers and imitated by followers in some kind of feeding frenzy.

Or maybe the truth lies somewhere in between, the scammers did so on their own and chose to run away to Cuba to avoid prosecution and the Cuban government is opportunistically charging them protection money.

Whatever it is, once noticed the investigators will eventually get to the bottom of things.

What is to be hoped is that the prosecution will carry out its tasks impartially and without a political ax to grind.

This seems difficult in southern Florida anytime the Cuban government is involved, but I sincerely hope that they can pull it off!


Anonymous said...

The DA's Motion is a mix of (selected) facts and lurid sensationalism -

The DA sets out very well how Sanchez connected two groups - the wicked Medicare Fraudsters on the one hand, and the " cash to Cuba" crowd on the other - we know what Medicare Fraudsters do, but who are these mysterious " cash to Cuba" guys ???

The DA deliberately withholds this information which he surely knows, but the most likely answer is that they are the guys who collect family remittances from the Cuban community in Florida, and send it to the final beneficaries in Cuba.

Next curious ommission from the DA, is WHERE were the Medicare checks presented and cleared - it sounds like either US banks or banks in CANADA, but the DA passes over any definition of that, doubtless because THAT is the LOCATION of any money laundering...and for whatever reason, the DA does not want to address the fact that whatever money laundering occurred, almoast certainly took place in North America.

Finally, the chances that any Cuban American Medicare fraudster, fugitive from justice, would choose to hide in Cuba defies any realistic understanding of Cuba's draconian attitude to (a) criminals in general and (b) wide assed Cuban Americans spending big money (on what ?)in particular.....indeed, as the Miami Herald web site on the fugitives makes clear, all of the fugitives are in DR or Mexico, places where fat guys with gold chains fit more natuirally into the scenery, and where there is no CDR or neighbourhood vigilance, and where the police are eminently bribable. Only in Dade county, home to the world's finest selection of Cuban criminals and thugs, could anyone think of Cuba as a hideaway...

The most probable destination of the money in Cuba is that the family remittances were delivered to the intended beneficaries in Cuba....the Medicare checks were swapped for cash in the USA, and the proceeds spent on high living in the USA; the checks were cleared (laundered) by the Canadian bank in Canada, and the funds sent via Trinidad to the intended beneficiaries.

So, next interesting question, why is the DA cooking up a story about the Castro regime? Probably because he fears that the powerful Cuban American community in Miami, well-known for closing ranks and looking after their own, will pressure the judge to allow Sanchez out on bail, from where he will indeed order to stop that support from the Cuban American community, the DA has chosen to paint this lurid mix of selected facts and rank speculation, in order to delegitamise any attempt to mobilise the Cuban American communitrty to support Sanchez' bail motion - he needs a conviction and an encarceration for God's sake !!! That same motive would also explain the DA's coyness about the true nature of the " cash to Cuba " crowd and their motivations...

Its just Dade County once again - one fourth of all Medicare payments go there !!