McALLEN, Texas – The owner of a purported health care resource center has been charged by a federal grand jury with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and two counts of soliciting and receiving kickback payments in violation of the federal anti-kickback statute, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.
Alicia Vasquez, of San Juan, Texas, the owner of David’s Star Loving Vision Resource Center (DSLV), was charged in a three-count indictment returned under seal on Nov. 1, 2011. The indictment was unsealed this morning, following the arrest of Vasquez by FBI and Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General (DHHS-OIG) agents. Vasquez, 51, is scheduled to appear in McAllen federal court later this morning for an initial appearance.
The federal anti-kickback statute prohibits individuals and entities from knowingly and willfully paying or offering to pay, as well as soliciting or receiving, remuneration (money or other things of value) in return for the referral of patients for medical services or items which are benefits under a federal health care program, such as Medicare or Medicaid. A violation of the anti-kickback statute is a felony offense that is punishable by up to five years in federal prison without parole and a $25,000 fine.
According to allegations in the indictment, from September 2009 through April 2011, Vasquez solicited numerous Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries through DSLV for the purpose of referring them to a variety of health care providers in Hidalgo and Cameron Counties including durable medical equipment (DME) companies, physicians and home healthcare agencies.
Over time, Vasquez allegedly referred the Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to these providers in exchange for a total of at least $70,000 in payments in violation of the anti-kickback statute. In turn, the providers billed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Medicare and Medicaid programs as a result of the allegedly illegal referrals. The indictment further charges that Vasquez, and the providers to which she referred beneficiaries, undertook a variety of measures to conceal Vasquez’s involvement with respect to the referrals. For example, the indictment alleges one owner of a DME company paid kickbacks to Vasquez through a third-party – referred in the indictment as “Person A.” The kickbacks were allegedly deposited into Person A’s bank account, from where the money was later diverted to Vasquez.
The ongoing investigation in this case is being conducted by the FBI and DHHS-OIG. Assistant United States Attorney Greg Saikin is prosecuting the case.