WASHINGTON, June 21, 2012—Three members of Congress have sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) asking for a briefing on allegations that the Cuban government may be involved in HME fraud in South Florida.
The letter—by Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., along with Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill.—cited two cases of alleged Medicare fraud in the Miami area. One involved Oscar Sanchez, who is accused by federal authorities of funneling to Havana banks $32 million in Medicare funds obtained by billing the agency for fraudulent medical services. The other involves Miguel Cabello, who fled to Cuba after being accused of submitting $2.1 million in fraudulent Medicare claims for durable medical equipment.
For years there has been growing concern that the large amount of Medicare fraud occurring in the Miami area could be linked to the Cuban government, which is starved for American cash because of an economic embargo and dilapidated economy.
The letter cited a report last year from Vanessa Lopez of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami. In the report, Lopez quoted a former Cuban intelligence officer who stated that there are strong indications that the Cuban government is assisting with the Medicare fraud, although not directing it.
In an interview with HomeCare, Lopez said it appears that a group—probably at lower levels of power in the Cuban government—may be training people in methods to defraud Medicare. These people then immigrate to the Miami area to engage in fraudulent activity, and when they are about to be apprehended they return to Cuba for sanctuary. Lopez said her report was prompted by a tip from a U.S. government official who was concerned about Cuban involvement in Medicare fraud.