Drug dealer thinks Medicare cons safer

By James Quiggle
January 13, 2014

imageA convicted cocaine dealer swapped the back alleys of drug peddling for the waiting rooms of Medicare fraud clinics. He stole a fortune but ended up in a jail cell.

Armando “Manny” Gonzalez immigrated from Cuba to Florida to start a new life peddling drugs.

He spent five years in federal prison for dealing, then found what he figured was a safer, lower-risk career with high-income potential: Medicare fraud — stealing from taxpayers and the seniors who needed care. Gonzalez became a millionaire in no time despite no expertise in medicine.

He opened two psychotherapy clinics in South Florida. Gonzalez bribed recruiters to supply him with a steady stream of patients. He billed patients for group therapy at his clinics in the Health Care Solutions Network. But many seniors suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. They were so far gone that they didn’t need group therapy, and thus were ineligible for the Medicare-paid treatments. Whatever “therapy” Gonzalez did provide was little more than having the seniors watch TV and movies.

imageIn all, he falsely billed Medicare $63 million and received a cool $28 million in stolen taxpayer funds.

Gonzalez cruised around town in style, choosing from one of his 17 vehicles. Among them were two Cadillac Escalades, a BMW, Mercedes Benz and Ford vans.

When the feds probed his operation, Gonzalez simply moved his business to what seemed to be a safer state, North Carolina.

He guessed wrong. The feds caught up with Gonzalez and he received 14 years in federal prison.

“You want money for yourself — it’s greed. You don’t see it as wrong. You see it as white collar.”Gonzalez brings to mind another Cuban-American drug dealer who also thought Medicare thievery was easier, lower-risk and higher-reward. Angel Castillo was a high-school dropout who sold cocaine and marijuana but bolted the trade to set up sham medical-equipment firms in South Florida.

He billed Medicare $48 million for unneeded mattresses, knee braces, artificial limbs and other durable goods.

He rented an upscale apartment, ate all his meals at restaurants, and bought $50,000 gold necklaces and a Rolex. Castillo also made a $200,000 cash downpayment on a four-bedroom home.

The short-lived luxury netted a long-lived sentence: Castillo is serving 10 years in prison.

“You want money for yourself — it’s greed. You don’t see it as wrong. You see it as white collar. There’s not a lot of risk. You don’t live in fear because you don’t think you’ll ever get caught,” he told a reporter.

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