FLORIDA — A nurse practitioner in Florida has been found guilty of participating in a healthcare fraud scheme worth $200 million.
Elizabeth Hernandez, 45, of Homestead, was convicted last week by a federal jury in Miami for her role in a scheme to defraud Medicare by submitting more than $200 million in false and fraudulent claims for expensive genetic testing and medical equipment that the Medicare beneficiaries did not need.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Hernandez signed thousands of orders for medically unnecessary orthotic braces and genetic tests, resulting in fraudulent Medicare billings in excess of $200 million.
As part of the scheme, telemarketing companies would reportedly contact Medicare beneficiaries to convince them to request orthotic braces and genetic tests and then send pre-filled orders for these products to Hernandez, who signed them, attesting that she had examined or treated the patients.
In reality, evidence revealed she had never spoken with many of the patients.
In 2020, Hernandez ordered more cancer genetic tests for Medicare beneficiaries than any other provider in the nation, including oncologists and geneticists, said the US Department of Justice (DOJ). She then billed Medicare as though she were conducting complex office visits with these patients and reportedly routinely billed more than 24 hours of “office visits” in a single day.
Hernandez personally pocketed approximately $1.6 million in the scheme, which she used to purchase expensive cars, jewelry, home renovations, and travel, said the DOJ.
The jury convicted Hernandez of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, in addition to four counts of health care fraud and three counts of making false statements relating to health care matters.
She is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 14.
Hernandez faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for conspiracy, 10 years in prison on each healthcare fraud count, and five years in prison on each false statement count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, and Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Christian J. Schrank of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) made the announcement.
The FBI and HHS-OIG investigated this case.
Trial Attorney Andrea Savdie and Assistant Chief Kate Payerle of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.