Debra Jean Velasquez, of Robstown, and Sylvia Salinas Ramirez, of Driscoll, have been ordered to prison in a scheme to defraud the Texas Medicaid program through fraudulent home health billings, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. The woman entered guilty pleas Sept. 4, 2013, to conspiring to submit false and fraudulent bills to the Texas Medicaid Program by wire transmissions as well as wire fraud.
Today, Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack handed Velasquez, 42, and Ramirez, 52, respective terms of 51 and 41 months in federal prison for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In handing down the sentence, Judge Jack noted that the sentence was necessary considering the number of victims, the need to deter future criminal conduct and to protect the public. Both will also be required to serve a term of two years of supervised release following completion of the prison term.
The two women admitted that from or about Aug. 1, 2009, through on or about June 15, 2010, they were employed by the Corpus Christi office of MRNG Inc. doing business as Caring Touch Home Health. During that time, they conspired to submit false and fraudulent bills through wire transmissions to the Texas Medicaid program and the Medicaid funded managed care organizations known as Evercare of Texas LLC and Superior Health Plan Inc. for home health services that had not been provided. Ramirez and Velasquez admitted they created false and fraudulent time sheets for former Caring Touch employees for home health services that had not been provided and then fraudulently billed Medicaid, Evercare and Superior in the name of Caring Touch for those non-existent services. They sent approximately 562 of those false and fraudulent bills by wire.
Ramirez and Velasquez also admitted that in order to personally profit from their fraudulent billings, they created phony payroll records from the fraudulent time sheet which they then sent to Caring Touch’s payroll staff. Ramirez and Velasquez then obtained the payroll checks generated from the false and fraudulent time records, forged the signatures of the former Caring Touch employees, then cashed the checks and divided the money among themselves. Caring Touch and the former employees whose names were used on the false time sheets and checks were not accused of any wrongdoing.
Ramirez and Velasquez admitted that as a result of their false and fraudulent claims, Texas Medicaid, Evercare and Superior paid the approximate aggregate sum of $155,127.72. As part of their pleas, the women have agreed to pay restitution in that amount.
Previously released on bond, Ramirez and Velasquez were taken into custody following the sentencing today where they will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The charges were the result of a joint investigation conducted by officers and agents of the Corpus Christi Police Department, the FBI, Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Special Assistant United States Attorney Rex Beasley and Assistant United States Attorney Jeffery D. Preston are prosecuting the case.