The Miami Herald reported the criminal charges of bribery against Bertha Blanco, a Florida health care administrator in exchange for helping a nursing home owner accused of orchestrating a $1 billion Medicare and Medicaid fraud scheme keep his license. The wide-ranging investigation that federal authorities are calling the nation’s biggest health fraud case.
Blanco made about $31,300 a year overseeing inspections at nursing facilities owned by Philip Esformes, a wealthy businessman who owns dozens of Miami-Dade nursing facilities as well as homes in Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago.
A criminal complaint filed against Blanco accused her of taking tens of thousands of dollars in cash in exchange for tipping Esformes off about violations so he could address them before state inspections. Blanco’s aid allowed Esformes to keep his license active and continue billing the federal government for questionable patient services.
Federal authorities say Blanco took the bribes and provided patient and inspection records to intermediaries, who delivered the information to Esformes. Two of those intermediaries, brothers Gabriel and Guillermo Delgado, have made plea deals and are expected to testify against Esformes. The brothers helped investigators get to Esformes by videotaping a cash transaction that prosecutors said was meant to go for bribes.
Esformes is accused of using his 20 nursing facilities to file false Medicare and Medicaid claims for services that were not necessary for 14,000 patients.
Prosecutors said his health care network and other co-conspirators billed $1 billion for fraudulent services between 2009 and 2016.