A federal court has convicted the CEO, the medical director, and the owner of San Antonio-based hospice and home health care provider Merida Health Group of fraud for filing $154 million in false hospice claims for patients who were not expected to die within six months.
A jury found owner Rodney Mesquias of San Antonio, CEO Henry McInnis, and medical director Francisco Pena guilty of one count each of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Mesquias and McInnis were found guilty of six counts of health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Pena was also convicted of one count of health care fraud, obstruction of health care investigations and one count of making false statements to the FBI.
The court also convicted Mesquias and Pena of engaging in a conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Rodney Mesquias and his co-conspirators preyed on the most vulnerable population – those in need of hospice and home health care – to line their pockets with millions of dollars and engage in lavish spending,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “I thank our law enforcement partners for their hard work and dedication to bringing these health care fraudsters to justice.”
The crimes were investigated by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a collaboration of state and federal and local officials coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of the Inspector General.
According to prosecutors, the Merida Group certified patients for hospice who were not eligible and placed many of them in group homes, nursing homes and public housing. While the patients were suffering from serious illnesses, such as dementia, that are likely to eventually claim their lives, they did not have a legitimate six-month terminal prognosis.
The three conspirators used the illegally obtained revenue to finance lavish lifestyles, with purchases including designer clothing, real estate, season tickets for sporting events, parties and luxury vehicles.
The obstruction of justice charges for Mesquias and McInnis followed discovery of falsified medical records including phony diagnostic test results. The Merida executives had presented this false information to a federal grand jury, according to the Justice Department.